- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Teachers believe they know as well as anyone what needs to be done to improve the quality of education in Maryland, but many say they feel left out when it comes to deciding what goes on in the classroom.
Members of unions representing teachers and other school employees packed the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room yesterday to support a bill that could give them a greater say in how they teach.
The bill proposed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening would allow teachers and school administrators, for the first time, to bargain on a wide range of issues such as class size, teacher training, classroom safety and teacher assignments.
The bill also has the support of the state school board and some local administrators, but generally is opposed by local school boards and superintendents.
James Raley, a teacher and school board member in Garrett County, said the state must find ways, in addition to better pay, to keep the best young teachers in the profession.
"We must give them respect, more credibility," Mr. Raley said.
The governor's bill would result in "collaborative efforts [that] can make our schools better," Mr. Raley said.
State law now requires school boards to bargain with employees on salaries, hours and working conditions, but prohibits negotiations on any other issues.
Mr. Glendening's bill would remove the prohibition and allow school boards and their employees to add other issues if both sides agree.
Kevin Hughes, a Glendening legislative aide, said the bill would not strip school administrators of any power because items could be added to collective bargaining only if both sides agree.
"There is no duty at all to bargain" on other issues, Mr. Hughes said.
But the Maryland Association of Boards of Education is opposed to expanding the issues subject to bargaining, said John Woolums, director of governmental relations.
School boards traditionally have made decisions on issues not directly related to money and discipline, and they should be kept off the bargaining table "so the paycheck issue never tangles with the educational policy issues," Mr. Woolums said.
The bill also was opposed by Maryland Business for Responsive Government, a research and educational organization representing business interests before the legislature.
"It completes the long march by the Maryland State Teachers Association to usurp all accountability and all decision making from kindergarten through 12th grade," said Robert Worcester, executive director of the organization.
Expansion of collective bargaining inevitably will lead to higher costs and will sap "the resources and energy and good will within the educational system," Mr. Worcester said. "It's hard to calculate the enormity of the overall cost."
The proposal also will have a negative impact on Maryland's business climate, he said.

The Maryland Senate approved a bill Monday night that would strengthen restrictions on development along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
The Critical Areas Law was adopted in 1984 to limit development within 1,000 feet of the Bay and the waterways that feed into it. The law mandates that building projects within the critical area meet a series of standards before they are approved.
The strictest standards were applied to construction within a 100-foot buffer zone, which scientists say is needed to reduce erosion and filter pollutants from rainwater runoff.
Supporters of this year's bill, including Mr. Glendening, argue that it closes loopholes created by three decisions by the Maryland Court of Appeals since 1999 that allow property owners to meet only some of the law's conditions for exceptions within the buffer. The bill does so by clarifying those pre-existing conditions.
The measure, which passed 38-7 Monday night without discussion, had been debated on the Senate floor for more than two weeks.

Legislation that supporters hope will save the lives of a few babies in Maryland won approval yesterday in the House. The bill is aimed at distraught young mothers who might abandon their babies and allow them to die.
It would give young mothers immunity from criminal prosecution for child abandonment if they turn over their newborn babies to any responsible adult.
A similar bill is awaiting action in the Senate, but it is more restrictive. It would require mothers to take a baby to a hospital, police station, fire station or social worker.

Highway safety advocates appealed to a Senate committee yesterday to approve legislation that would strengthen Maryland's drunken-driving laws.
Among the 10 bills before the Judicial Proceedings Committee were two that would make it illegal to have an open container of an alcoholic beverage in the passenger compartment of a vehicle.
Another bill would provide longer jail terms and bigger fines for repeat drunken-driving convictions.
Also on the agenda was a bill to require police to impound a vehicle until the driver is sober. The legislation was drafted in response to a fatal accident involving a driver who got back into his car after he was arrested and charged with drunken driving.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide