Little hope for teacher scholarships; Glendening program becomes victim of budget trims

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Gov. Parris N. Glendening's plan to launch a scholarship program for prospective teachers this year is likely to be delayed until fall 2000 by General Assembly budget-cutters.

In the $17.7 billion budget bill it brought to the House floor last night, the Appropriations Committee approved a recommendation from its education subcommittee last week to trim this year's budget by $6 million by pushing back the starting date of the so-called HOPE scholarships for teachers.

A subcommittee of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee has made the same cut in its proposed budget bill. Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, the committee chairwoman, said the full panel is likely to approve the cut Thursday.

Meanwhile last night, the Senate gave its preliminary approval to the bill authorizing the teacher scholarships. But it did so only after voting 25-20 to tack on a potentially troublesome amendment, expanding the program to students who go on to teach in nonpublic schools.

The governor has promoted his HOPE teacher scholarship initiative as a vital part of his strategy for dealing with a shortage of qualified teachers in public schools. The bill would create a $3,000 per year scholarship for B-average students, who agree to teach in Maryland public schools.

Lawmakers expressed support for the concept of the program, and language in the House budget bill calls for the program to be funded in next year's budget. But the governor's proposed 1999 start fell victim to the Assembly's determination to cut the budget by about $125 million to fit within its guidelines.

"It certainly isn't something the committee would choose to cut under normal circumstances," said Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat.

The House committee left $5 million in the budget to launch the HOPE scholarship program for students in science and technology programs. It also included $125,000 for the costs of designing the teacher program.

Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, noted that the legislature made a similar budget cut last year, when it approved the HOPE technology scholarships in principle but delayed the funding.

"We've got four years. We can't do everything in one year," said the Baltimore Democrat.

Rawlings added that the governor also should be doing more to help current teachers improve their skills.

Glendening spokesman Ray Feldmann said the governor was disappointed about the cuts and would fight to have the money restored. "The primary reason why the governor put the money in the budget to do this now is because he recognizes, as everyone else in education recognizes, that we are facing a very serious shortage of quality teachers," Feldmann said.

The administration says Maryland will need 11,000 more public school teachers within two years to handle a burgeoning student population, reduce class sizes and offset increasing retirements among an aging population of educators. Feldmann said the state expects to have 16 percent more middle and high school students in 2006 than it had in 1996.

Feldmann said the 1999 launch is important because the program is designed to work with the governor's initiatives to reduce class sizes and to increase the numbers of certified teachers.

"To take one cog out of the wheel makes the whole wheel go crooked," Feldmann said.

In Annapolis

Highlights in Annapolis today:

Senate meets. 10 a.m. Senate chamber.

House of Delegates meets. 10 a.m. House chamber.

House Ways and Means Committee hearing on HB 1148, to allow property tax break for Marriott International Inc. 1 p.m. Room 110, House office building.

Pub Date: 3/16/99

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