A Page From Glendening's Book

By Nancy Trejos and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 11, 2006

Five years ago, Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) ignited a controversy when he proposed spending part of the tobacco litigation settlement money to help private and parochial schools buy textbooks.

It divided state legislators, invoked the wrath of the state teachers union and even got the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union. The state eventually cut funding for the program because of budget constraints.

The debate was reignited Monday night at a forum between the two Democrats running for Montgomery County executive. The Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington, which represents 36 schools in the county, sponsored the event.

When asked if he would support public funding for private school textbooks, former council member Isiah Leggett said that he would, as long as the action did not violate the separation of church and state or interfere with public school funding. "I supported that years ago," he said in an interview, referring to Glendening's proposal.

Council member Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large) said he was adamantly opposed to it. "We should keep public money in the public school system," he said. "Funding private school textbooks undermines public education."

Leggett also said he would be open to allowing private schools use public school buses. His willingness to help private schools does not undermine his commitment to public schools, he said. "I've been a very strong supporter of public education," he said.

Bonnie Cullison , president of the Montgomery County Education Association, said she was not at the forum to hear the candidates' answers but would discuss the issue with them.

The education association, she said, is opposed to the use of public money for private schools.

"We feel we need the money here in the public schools to address the complex needs of our students," she said. "I honestly believe the caliber of our academic program in the public schools would match any private school, but in order to maintain that level we've got to keep those resources."

Subin to Run Again

Five-term council member Michael L. Subin announced Tuesday that he will seek to hold on to his at-large seat in September's Democratic primary.

"More than anybody else, I have spent more time working in this building," he said on the steps of the County Office Building in Rockville.

Subin, 56, was first elected in 1986. He now serves as chairman of the education committee. During his term as chairman, he said, the council has expanded all-day kindergarten and reduced class sizes. He is also overseeing the panel at a time of discord between the school board and the council. The two bodies have been at odds over whether to build a new Seven Locks Elementary School in Bethesda on a parcel of land at Kendale Road or to replace the existing one on its current site.

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