Gansler proposes re-directing gambling funds for horse racing to pre-K education

Douglas F. Gansler waves to a person he recognized in the crowd while waiting to be introduced in Rockville last month. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

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Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) on Thursday proposed shifting a portion of the state’s gambling proceeds from the horse-racing industry to early childhood education.

The 2014 gubernatorial hopeful said the money would be used to help fund his plan to provide full-day pre-kindergarten for disadvantaged children, an initiative he previewed in a speech last month at Salisbury University.

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Gansler shared more details of his pre-K proposal during his latest “Building our Best Maryland” policy forum, held Thursday at Loyola University in Baltimore. He floated several other ideas intended to help close a minority achievement gap in Maryland schools, which Gansler called “the moral stain of our state.”

Those other ideas include grants to encourage schools to develop programs for families facing language barriers, as well as a new volunteer program to assist pre-K families called Maryland Matters. Gansler described it as “Head Start meets Teach for America.”

Gansler said he would re-direct $22 million of an anticipated $72 million in gambling proceeds budgeted for the horse-racing industry this year to fund full-day pre-K programs.

“While I value the historic contributions of our horse-racing industry, I also value Maryland children, and if we can provide $50 million in support of horse training, we certainly can spare $22 million to educate our children,” Gansler said.

Pre-K education is also a priority for Gansler’s two Democratic rivals, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery). Brown put forward a plan earlier this week for “universal” pre-K. Mizeur is expected to detail her plan shortly.

Brown and Mizeur both touted new endorsements on Thursday.

Brown appeared alongside House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), his latest backer, at an event in Annapolis. Word of Busch’s support leaked earlier this week.

Mizeur, meanwhile, released a list of 10 council members from Prince George’s County municipalities who are supporting her: Jason Barnett of Brentwood; Jesse Christopherson of Mt. Rainier; Mary Jane Coolen of Cheverly; Liza Fenton of New Carrollton, Jennifer Jenkins of Glenarden; Jennifer Murphy of Brentwood; Patrick Paschall and Shani Warner of Hyattsville; Patrick Wojahn of College Park; and Jacqueline Wood-Dodson of Fairmont Heights.

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