Baltimore County’s teachers’ union announced its support Wednesday for Democrat Johnny Olszewski Jr., a former public school teacher, for county executive.
The endorsement from the Teachers Association of Baltimore County brings money and manpower to a candidate’s campaign. Speaking at the union’s office in Towson, union President Abby Beytin said Olszewski “has always been there for education” from his time as a student member of the school board to his career as a teacher and state delegate.
Olszewski recounted how he used education as a way to “unlock opportunities.” A graduate of county schools who was the first in his family to graduate college, Olszewski went on to obtain a doctoral degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Olszewski’s campaign promises have included replacing several aging county high schools, offering universal free preschool, providing free meals to students and dramatically increasing teacher pay. Those pledges come at a significant cost, but Olszewski said the investment will be worthwhile because improved schools will mean increased property values that will result in more taxes being paid.
He also thinks there’s room within the county budget to spend more on education by rooting out wasteful spending, re-evaluating mid-level and administrative spending in the school system and revisiting the program that puts a laptop or tablet in the hands of every public school student.
Beytin didn’t mention Olszewski’s opponent, Republican Al Redmer Jr., by name, but said the choice between the candidates “couldn’t be clearer.” Referring to Redmer only as "the other candidate," she said that when he was in the House of Delegates, he voted against state budgets that funded schools and against the state’s funding formula for schools.
“We cannot put our future in the hands of someone who has consistently failed to support our public schools,” she said.
Redmer’s campaign issued a statement saying that while the teachers’ union is endorsing Olszewski, he believes the teachers themselves will vote for him.
“Certain segments of the county are satisfied with the status quo and the political machine that has been running things for decades,” Redmer said in the statement. “The teachers’ union is one of them.”
Redmer, who toured Towson High School earlier in the day, criticized the union for standing “idly by” while school buildings have deteriorated, without advocating for teachers who work in schools without air conditioning or with brown drinking water.
The teachers’ union initially endorsed Democrat Vicki Almond in the county executive’s race, and Olszewski’s camp questioned how the vote was held. Almond ended up finishing third in the Democratic primary.
Beytin said it was an easy decision to switch the union’s allegiance to Olszewski after Almond’s defeat. She said it was a close call between Almond and Olszewski, who are both pro-education candidates.
The winner of the Nov. 5 general election will succeed Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler. He was appointed to the county’s top job in May following the sudden death of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. Mohler is serving the remainder of Kamenetz’s final term, which runs through December.