TO WIN an election, a candidate often makes promises that prove difficult to keep. Parris N. Glendening has put himself squarely in that uncomfortable position.
During last year's gubernatorial election, Mr. Glendening pledged to put 1,110 more teachers into local classrooms to tutor kids in reading and math. That commitment neatly neutralized a somewhat similar pledge by his opponent, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, to hire an extra 1,000 reading teachers.
But after he was re-elected, Mr. Glendening decided not to include any money in his budget for these educators.
Instead, the governor is sponsoring legislation to establish accountability standards for such a program. Next year, he now says, he'll place $11 million in his 2000 budget to pay teachers' salaries.
His point is that simply throwing money at a problem won't solve it. First, you need a game plan. Next, some standards to judge progress. And the governor says he wants to ensure that Maryland's 24 school systems have a strategy for attacking their special reading and math needs.
All that makes sense. But it doesn't negate the fact that Mr. Glendening is breaking a campaign pledge. And his postponement of this program will make matters worse for troubled students who are deficient at reading or calculating.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan has been outspoken in his criticism of the governor's unkept promise. And for good reason.
Based on Mr. Glendening's pledge during the 1998 campaign, Mr. Duncan had planned to hire 117 reading and math specialists for September. Written guidelines -- the kind that the governor said would be needed -- are already in place in Montgomery. Why delay implementation?
The governor's insistence on accountability is understandable, but kids in elementary schools should not be forced to wait until September 2000 to receive the specialized help they were promised.
We urge Mr. Glendening to reconsider his stance as the state's budget is reshaped in the coming months. Accountability standards can be approved this session and local school systems can respond in a matter of months.
This leaves ample time to hire certified reading and math instructors before the next school year begins. All that is needed is a supplemental budget request from the governor.
Let's make sure every public school system has a solid plan to help students master basic skills. But let's also get those teaching specialists into the classrooms where they are needed.
Failure to confront this problem immediately could harm the ability of children to learn, and achieve, for a lifetime.