Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Douglas F. Gansler plans Monday to call for using proceeds from the state’s gambling program to fund full-day preschool for children from disadvantaged families.
Gansler, the state’s attorney general, is also set to propose a new “volunteer corps” for college students who want to provide additional help to those families, according to remarks he plans to deliver Monday night at Salisbury University.
The stop will be the latest on a weeklong gubernatorial announcement tour that Gansler launched Tuesday in Rockville. Gansler, who is spending Monday on the Eastern Shore, faces a highly competitive primary next year against Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery).
In prepared remarks for Salisbury, which were shared by Gansler’s campaign, he argues that “school readiness” programs prior to kindergarten are vital to closing a persistent minority achievement gap in Maryland’s public schools.
“It is time to fully fund full-day pre-K programs for all qualifying families,” Gansler says. “If that wasn’t what we brought gambling to Maryland to fund, what did we bring it here for?”
During Maryland’s debate last year over expanding its gambling program, some lawmakers argued for using revenue from table games to fund early childhood programs — a course Gansler suggests should have been taken.
The bill approved by the legislature and later approved by voters authorized table games, such as black jack and roulette, at Maryland’s previously slots-only casinos, as well as a sixth casino to be in Prince George’s County. The largest share of revenue from the state’s casinos flow into K-12 education programs.
Under current law, local school systems are required to provide partial-day pre-school programs for 4-year-olds who would qualify for free or reduced-price meals based on their family’s income.
The fiscal implications of Gansler’s proposal were not immediately clear. Currently, table game proceeds are budgeted for other education programs. A bill introduced in 2012 that would have required full-day pre-K programs was projected to cost the state more than $100 million a year and have significant costs for local school systems as well.
An aide said Gansler’s new volunteer corps for college students, called Maryland Matters, could be paid for with existing resources.
“As a part of the Maryland Matters volunteer corps, you will mentor families,” Gansler plans to tell the Salisbury University students. “Of course, for this to work, you must be prepared to be appropriately trained in literacy learning and more, and be prepared to work with the many outstanding nonprofits that currently provide these pre-K programs.”