Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening said yesterday that he will seek $20 million over the next five years to open family learning centers in some Maryland public schools, providing preschool programs for youngsters and a range of education and social services for parents.
The centers would be modeled after one at Cool Spring Elementary in Prince George's County and would offer early childhood education programs, job training and placement programs, English language instruction, parenting seminars and preventive health services for families.
"These centers, which will provide important services, will help ensure that children throughout Maryland grow up healthy, safe and well educated," Glendening (D) said at a ceremony dedicating the Adelphi site as the first Judy Hoyer Family Learning Center.
Judith Hoyer, the late wife of U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), was a longtime advocate for children who supervised early education programs for more than 23,000 children in 117 elementary schools in Prince George's. She died of stomach cancer in 1997.
Glendening said his budget request, which he will submit to the General Assembly next month, calls for lawmakers to commit $4 million annually through 2005 to create "Judy Centers" in schools that have high concentrations of low-income or non-English-speaking families. About 30 percent of children enrolled in Maryland public schools are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, while 2 percent speak limited English.
Consolidating an array of social services under one roof will help make schools the focus of communities, thereby supporting families and encouraging parent involvement with their children's education, officials said.
"Judy had this vision that you can't parcel out children . . . that you have to look at the whole family," said state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick. "Even for extremely young parents and those who were lacking parenting skills, she had this profound respect. She felt you could really turn around families by embracing the children."
Grasmick, a longtime friend and former college classmate of Judith Hoyer, said the Judy Centers would operate in schools so families can have easy access to them. Sites have not been chosen for the new centers, and officials could not say how many $20 million would fund.
Grasmick was joined at the dedication by Hoyer, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Education Secretary Richard W. Riley, Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) and county School Superintendent Iris T. Metts. Riley has said he likes the idea of promoting education by serving families, though he did not offer federal assistance yesterday.
The Adelphi center, which was opened in 1993 and serves 800 children and their families daily, is funded by the Prince George's school system and the Judith Hoyer Foundation, along with a host of county, state and federal agencies.
Grasmick said the time is ideal for Glendening to seek funding for the centers. The state has a $925 million budget surplus and could receive $4.4 billion over 25 years in a settlement with the tobacco industry.
"The legislature is poised to give great prominence to education," said Grasmick. "They know the importance of children coming to school ready to learn."
CAPTION: Hillary Rodham Clinton talks with U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer before they spoke at a dedication for the Judy Hoyer Family Learning Center in Adelphi.