In Maryland and across the country, there are about three or four female teachers for every man at the head of a school classroom. Those figures, drawn from state data and a national teachers union, have led some public officials to voice concern about a dearth of male role models in public schools.

Yesterday, Prince George's County school officials, Bowie State University and U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) announced a $560,000 initiative to help put more male teachers in the county school system.

The program offers tuition subsidies and test preparation support to male teachers who need university coursework and a passing grade on a professional exam to become fully credentialed. The participants also get use of laptop computers for the year, monthly lectures from experts and peer support.

So far, 43 men, mostly blacks, have signed up. In exchange for the aid, they are required to teach at least two years in Prince George's public schools.

"These new teachers will serve as important role models and mentors for the next generation," Hoyer said in an appearance at Bowie State.

Hoyer, who is the U.S. House minority whip, helped secure $350,000 in federal funding for the program. The university is contributing about $50,000, and the school system, about $160,000.

Bowie State President Calvin W. Lowe said the university is obligated to help a school system that supplies many of its students. "As go the Prince George's County schools, so goes the state university," Lowe said. "That's how tightly we're bound to one another."

Maryland data show that about 25 percent of newly hired teachers each year, and about 23 percent of all teachers statewide, are men. Data from the National Education Association show that about 21 percent of teachers nationwide are men -- a ratio that the teachers union calls a 40-year low.

County officials are especially keen to recruit black male teachers. The school system serves a projected student population of 139,000 students, more than three-fourths of whom are black.