The Governor’s Educational Design

The only indication of the Governor’s thinking, if it can be called that, about the school system, is that supplied by his task force on education, whose report was publicized by, and not repudiated by, the Governor’s office.

The three co-chairmen of the task force were selected so as to be totally protective of existing vested interests, particularly those of the teachers’ unions and colleges of education. They were Patricia Foerster, outgoing president of the state teachers’ union; Alvin Thornton, author of the extravagant and non-reformist school financing report and statute that bears his name; and June Streckfus, Executive Director of the Maryland Business Roundtable, who was relegated to preparation of those portions of the report dealing with the MSDE, not those dealing with personnel and money.

Absent from the task force were any of the state’s noted education reformers, like former State Board of Education Chairman and Abell Foundation director Robert Embry, fired by Gov. Glendening as his first official act; Chester Finn of the Thomas Fordham Foundation; former Secretary of Labor Bill Brock; National Conference on Teacher Quality chairperson Kate Walsh; or Myron Lieberman of the Educational Policy Institute. Equally absent from direction of the effort were any representatives of the higher education community; the state’s private and religious schools; and the great federal and private scientific institutions like the JHU medical institutions and applied physics laboratory and the National Institutes of Health that are condemned by reason of their immobility to recruit employees from among the products of the Maryland school system. These people were thought to have nothing of value to contribute, or at least no campaign contributions and election day workers to contribute. First things first.

What are the recommendations? The familiar mantra of the teachers’ unions, most notably lower class size. The task force’s discussion of this issue, however, verges on the shame-faced:

“US Department of Education report [uncited] concludes ‘A growing body of research involving large-scale carefully controlled experiments shows that lowering class size in the early grades will produce significant and lasting benefits for students, The early reported experience shows that Class Size Reduction Program is well on its way to helping schools throughout the country realize these benefits’. Unfortunately once these students leave 2nd or 3rd grade, they enter classes with double the students than their previous year. This creates a problem for the student who still requires that individual attention in order to be successful. That is why it is imperative to reduce class size at all levels.”(pg.50)

The report for good measure recommends increased capital funding for more classrooms to accommodate reduced class sizes “without increasing the use of re-locatables (pg.30).

To retain the necessary teachers, it recommends “higher multiples to increase pension contributions

Posted in: Education