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State Journal: Schools vs. stadium; A promise to teachers

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Schools vs. Stadium

Four Maryland state senators who are hoping to scuttle a deal to build a new football stadium in Baltimore are arguing that state funds ought to be used to build public schools, not a high-tech sports facility.

The senators plan to introduce a bill next month that would block the state from using public dollars for the stadium's construction and would redirect the money to building and renovating public schools.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening recently signed a contract with the owner of the National Football League's Cleveland Browns, promising to build a new stadium if the team relocates to Baltimore. The agreement earmarks $200 million in state-lottery money for the project.

State Sen. Chris Van Hollen says that state dollars should not be used to finance "sweetheart deals" with wealthy football owners.

"Why should we be building skyboxes when we have schools that have leaky roofs and outmoded technology? It doesn't make sense," Mr. Van Hollen said.

But Ray Feldman, a spokesman for Gov. Glendening, said the governor has already pledged to spend $480 million in state funds on improving public school buildings over the next four years.

Mr. Feldman added that the proposed legislation could precipitate a legal battle with Browns owner Art Modell, who has the signed contract in hand.

A Promise to Teachers

It was no surprise that the audience at a recent Louisiana Federation of Teachers meeting would respond with wild applause when state Superintendent Raymond G. Arveson said that lawmakers should raise teachers' salaries.

The average Louisiana teacher's salary is about $26,000. Mr. Arveson and union officials have agreed that the legislature should work to raise that amount to $31,000, the average teacher's salary in the Southeast region.

But the person with the most to lose on the issue is Mike Foster, who was elected the state's governor last month. Mr. Foster, who is to take office in January, made teacher-salary increases an issue in his campaign.

If salaries do not reach the regional average within two years, he promised, he will decline his own paycheck. The Louisiana governor's annual salary is $95,000.

--Jessica Portner & Lonnie Harp

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