Sauerbrey Proposes Hiring 1,001 Teachers
By Daniel LeDuc and Ellen Nakashima
Sauerbrey's proposals, unveiled during a campaign swing through Western Maryland, also include state testing of first-graders to determine if they have learning disabilities, improving school discipline, ending social promotion and giving local governments more opportunities to audit their school systems.
"If we don't prepare our children for the jobs of the future," Sauerbrey told reporters in Hagerstown, "Maryland is not going to live up to its economic potential."
Aside from the proposal for new teachers, most of the initiatives discussed yesterday are ideas Sauerbrey has been promoting in speeches for several months. Taken together, they represent a continuing effort by the onetime biology teacher and former Maryland House GOP leader to broaden her appeal beyond those attracted by her advocacy of deep tax cuts.
Promising to supply new teachers has been gaining popularity with candidates nationally. In Virginia last year, Republican James S. Gilmore III's promise to hire 4,000 new teachers trumped Democrat Donald S. Beyer's vow to raise teacher salaries. The additional teachers proposed by Sauerbrey represent a 2 percent increase over the 48,800 teachers now at work in the state.
Sauerbrey also called for early testing for reading problems; teaching children to read by the end of first grade by emphasizing phonics; more equitably distributing state aid between counties; developing a more rigorous statewide school performance test that would allow parents to see their child's results; and offering scholarships or refundable tax credits for private schools.
Independent education experts said Sauerbrey's platform appeared sound, but some state education officials questioned where Sauerbrey would find 1,001 new qualified teachers, given a nationwide teaching shortage, and wondered how she would pay for new classrooms to put them in. Allies of Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) complained that she was lifting their themes and proposals after what they said was her previous hostility to public education.
"It's a flip-flop that [Olympic diver] Greg Louganis would be proud of," said Peter Hamm, Glendening's press secretary. Sauerbrey's education proposal, he added, is "what Governor Glendening has been doing for the past four years."
But Christopher Cross, president of the D.C.-based Council for Basic Education and a former president of the Maryland Board of Education, said Sauerbrey's plan "looks like a very strong program."
"She's touched the issues which I believe are of most concern to parents," said Cross, who was appointed to the board by former governor William Donald Schaefer. "I don't think there's anything here I would consider to be unreasonable. They are all doable and need to be done in some way."
Sauerbrey said she would pay for the new teachers by making sure that 90 percent of new school aid went to classroom instruction and teacher salaries and only 10 percent to administration costs. That formula, coupled with growing revenues from a good economy, would pay the $40 million cost, Sauerbrey said.
"A lot of that will be paid by putting money into the classrooms and not building the bureaucracy in Annapolis," she said.
Sauerbrey's rival for the GOP nomination, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, disputed her idea that pouring more money into the classroom would pay for the teachers.
"Where is she going to get the money?" said Ecker, a former Howard County deputy school superintendent. "It sounds good, but . . . it's too expensive."
Ron Peiffer, a spokesman for the state Board of Education, said that nearly all of state aid already goes into the classroom.
He said that 3.4 percent of the money is spent on administration.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company