A NUN with a long history of involvement in private religious education takes over this week as the new executive director of one of Baltimore's primary advocates for public education, the Fund for Educational Excellence.
Sister Rosemarie T. Nassif, SSND, who resigned last summer after four sometimes stormy years as president of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, thinks her career move is perfectly logical. "I'm an advocate of education, public and private," says Nassif, 55. "I've seen how education transforms people. I think public and private education serve each other; they're more similar than they are disparate."
Nassif replaces Jerry Baum, who is retiring at 70. Baum founded the fund 13 years ago this month and has shepherded it gently across rough and easy terrain. Patterned after a pioneering public education fund in Pittsburgh, the Fund for Educational Excellence raises private funds and uses them to improve public schools in the city. (The Public Education Network, of which the Baltimore fund is a member, numbers about 50.)
The fund works mainly in small ways -- grants to teachers, for example, for creative classroom projects. The fund's most ambitious program, in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins University, promotes partnerships among schools, families and communities.
The courtly, patient Baum, a fixture at city education gatherings, will be missed. "I'd like to think I made a difference in the lives of some numbers of children and teachers," he says modestly.
His successor will find that she has to sing for her supper, hitting up corporations and foundations for money to keep the fund's programs alive and healthy.
She deserves good luck. The Fund for Educational Excellence is one of those unheralded organizations that makes the normally hard life of urban education just a little easier.
Opponent of tax money for schools visits city
So maybe the problem with public education is that it's public.
That's what Marshall Fritz believes. Fritz was in Baltimore the other day to spread his message that government schools undermine individual responsibility, promote moral "relativism" and generally have no place in a true democracy. Fritz is among a small group of people advocating a new twist on a familiar phrase -- the complete separation of school and state.
"State schools are always used to undermine the weak," Fritz declared at a meeting of 24 believers at a North Baltimore church. "Hitler had his state schools. Stalin had his. America has had state schools since the 1830s. They're always accompanied by compulsory education and an erosion of parental authority."
Fritz, a former Christian school principal from California, goes about the country giving speeches and selling treatises and cassettes to support the Separation of School and State Alliance and its monthly publication, the Education Liberator.
Much of what Fritz says echoes mainstream conservative dogma, but he goes a step beyond: He opposes school vouchers and "privatization" ventures such as Baltimore's Education Alternatives Inc., because they still require tax money. With that money, he says, come "controls that promote dependency."
Most of those who attended the spaghetti dinner the other night were in solid agreement with Fritz. Several are associated with the home-school movement, which is the darling of the school-state separatists. It's growing rapidly, as The Sun documented recently, and is sending chills up the backs of some in the public sector.
As he goes about tilting at public-school windmills, here's Fritz's scenario: about 7 million students are not in "state" schools -- 5.8 million of them in private schools and 1.2 million in home schools. (Public school enrollment is less than seven times larger.)
Public schools can stand the exodus of another 5 million, Fritz believes. Then it's curtains. "Somewhere between the 12th and the 17 millionth defector the camel's back is broken. Remember that it didn't take all 17 million East Germans to leave to break down the Berlin Wall. It didn't even take 17,000."
Average teacher salary in Md. $41,229 last year
Here, as teachers return from their spring vacation, are statistics of interest from the American Federation of Teachers' annual report on the monetary status of the profession:
The average teacher salary in Maryland last year was $41,229, 11th in the nation and 109.5 percent of the national average, $37,643.
But raises in Maryland haven't kept up with the rest of the nation. Free State teachers' salaries have increased 61.3 percent in the past decade, 20th among the states.
That $41,229 is 1.59 times the annual income of all workers in Maryland, giving the state a national rank of 36th. The number of comparatively well-paid government workers residing here is a factor.
With their salaries adjusted for the cost of living, Maryland teachers drop from 11th to 13th.
Pub Date: 4/02/97