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Md. gubernatorial candidates discuss education

OCEAN CITY — Maryland candidates for governor outlined some of their plans and priorities for education to the state’s teachers’ union on Friday, a day before the union is scheduled to endorse a candidate.

Attorney General Doug Gansler, Del. Heather Mizeur and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who are seeking the Democratic nomination, addressed the union’s annual convention for about 10 minutes each. Gansler and Brown each used some of the time to show a campaign-style video. Republican David Craig also spoke. Two other candidates seeking the GOP nomination — Charles Lollar and Del. Ron George — did not attend.

The Democratic candidates all touched on teacher frustration with teacher evaluations based on student test scores. The Maryland School Assessment, which tests grades three through eight, has been criticized for not being aligned with the school curriculum.

“We’re going to work together with local school boards around the state to ensure that our students’ curriculum is correct, that our tests reflect the curriculum and that teacher evaluations reflect that teachers do more than teaching to the test,” Brown said to applause and cheers from teachers across the state.

Mizeur said the state needs a governor to stand up for teachers and think twice about whether to accept federal money with too many strings attached.

“More money tied to less flexibility is not necessarily a winning equation,” Mizeur said.

Gansler criticized the MSA test as a waste of money. Gansler also said teachers shouldn’t be evaluated largely on how students do on the test.

Gansler and Craig said teachers should not have to pay taxes on their retirement income.

Craig, who is the Harford County executive, said he would reinforce Maryland’s commitment to local boards of education. He also expressed support for increasing spending on school security.

The Democratic candidates support the expansion of pre-kindergarten. Mizeur wants pre-K for all 4-year-old children by the end of her first term. She also wants to expand it for 3-year-old children from lower and middle class families. Brown would expand pre-K for 4-year-old children by 2018. Gansler also supports pre-K expansion.

Craig says expanding pre-K will spread state education funds too thin.

Craig and Mizeur also spoke of creating a new Thornton commission to again examine school funding formulas. In 2002, Maryland lawmakers created the commission to boost funding for state schools.

Brown said he wants to do all he can to increase school construction money from about $340 million a year to $500 million.

The MSEA, which has more than 70,000 members, describes itself as Maryland’s largest union and professional association in the state.

In the last governor’s race, the union endorsed Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is term limited.