Category Archives: education

Hogan’s Campaign Against Public Schools

By Adam Pagnucco.

Governor Larry Hogan is the most dedicated opponent of Maryland public schools in recent memory.  And now, new rankings of states in a respected education publication show how effective he has been.

Education Week, which ranks public school systems by state, rated Maryland’s public schools as fifth in the nation as of 2017.  That’s a decent rank, except when you consider that the publication rated Maryland number one every year from 2009 through 2013.  Maryland scored particularly low on its achievement gap between low-income and high-income students, ranked as 42nd in the country.

The decline in the state’s ranking is no surprise since it’s perfectly consistent with Governor Hogan’s record on public schools.  Consider what he has done in his first two years in office.

  1. He cut public school funding in his first budget.

The Governor of Maryland has enormous budgetary powers under the state’s constitution.  When he submits an operating budget to the General Assembly, the state legislators generally cannot add spending to it – they can only set aside spending for particular purposes or cut it.  Over the years, the General Assembly has established funding formulas for certain spending items in state law, and that includes most state aid programs for K-12 education.  But the Governor identified one program that was not protected by state law – a program that sent extra money to school systems with higher costs of educating students.  The Governor cut half of that money, a total of $68 million, in his very first budget.  Here are the counties that were affected and their dollar losses:

Prince George’s: $20 million

Montgomery: $18 million

Baltimore City: $12 million

Anne Arundel: $5 million

Frederick: $3 million

Baltimore County: $3 million

Howard: $3 million

Others: $4 million

Note that almost three-quarters of the cuts applied to three jurisdictions: Prince George’s, Montgomery and the City.  What do they have in common?  You guessed it: they all voted against Hogan by large margins.

Hogan resisted calls from the General Assembly to restore the cuts, so they passed a law making the program mandatory.  Hogan waved the white flag of surrender, admitting that he did not have the votes to sustain a veto.  If he had gotten them, those cuts would have continued every single year.

  1. He withheld teacher pension aid for counties in his second budget.

Since FY2013, counties have been responsible for paying part of the cost of teacher pension funding, with the remainder covered by the state.  After passage of his second budget, Hogan withheld $19 million in state aid the General Assembly set aside to help counties pay for teacher pensions, a move that threatened their credit ratings.  Here are the counties that were affected and their dollar losses:

Montgomery: $6 million

Howard: $2 million

Baltimore County: $2 million

Anne Arundel: $2 million

Prince George’s: $1 million

Frederick: $1 million

Others: $5 million

Ultimately, Hogan agreed to release the money but only when the General Assembly agreed to provide an equal amount in corporate welfare to Northrop Grumman, one of Hogan’s top policy priorities.  What kind of Governor plays games with school funding in order to get more money for corporate welfare?

  1. He is jamming public school boards with public school skeptics.

As Governor, Hogan has the power to appoint members of the State Board of Education as well as numerous local school boards.  He has used that prerogative to stack these boards with skeptics of public schools.  The President and Vice-President of the State Board of Education, both Hogan appointees, are nationally-known promoters of charter schoolsOther State Board appointees are a religious school principal and “a consultant who works on charter school conversions.”  It is no coincidence that the State Board is now considering an expansion of vouchers for private schools.  Another Hogan appointee is Ann Miller of the Baltimore County school board, who has a history of criticizing LGBT people and immigrants.  Another Baltimore County school board appointee, retired private school teacher and non-voter June Eaton, was asked by the Baltimore Sun “if she had any public school issues that needed to be addressed.”  Eaton replied, “I really haven’t given it much thought. This is all new to me.”

  1. He is pushing hard for tax dollars to be sent to private schools.

At the same time that Hogan has been trying to cut funding for public schools, he is doing everything in his power to send tax dollars to private schools.  Last year, he got the General Assembly to agree to $5 million in funding for vouchers.  Now, he is pushing to expand the program to $10 million.  The Governor continues to support a corporate tax credit for businesses contributing to private schools and introduced a bill that would have allowed charter schools to compete for state public school construction funding.

Hogan’s behavior is straight out of the playbook of Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos: starve public schools and send the money to the private sector.  Hogan even put his own twist on it by using public school money as a bargaining chip to get corporate welfare for defense behemoth Northrop Grumman.  The Governor’s intentions are beyond doubt.  Only one question remains.

Can he be stopped?

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Hogan Takes $25 Million from Schools but Gives $20 Million to Northrup Grumman

Governor Larry Hogan has refused to spend $25.1 million that the General Assembly allocated toward education. Apparently, this is because he’s piqued that the legislature did not give the discretion on how to spend the money.

Among the $25.1 million is $6.1 million that would have gone to fixing aging schools. Governor Hypocrite has made a cause célèbre of bringing air conditioning more quickly to Baltimore schools but is uninterested in upgrades when he’s not at the center of headlines or they were the legislature’s idea.

An additional $19 million would have helped local school systems cover the cost of employee pensions, allowing them to free up the money to improve education. Hogan said no.

Instead, Hogan is giving $20 million to Northrup Grumman in a huge dollop of corporate welfare. Avowedly, this bribe to Northrup Grumman is to “retain” 10,000 new jobs in Maryland. Except that the fine print of the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) report reveals that NG is not required to create a single job to get the money.

Bad idea for so many reasons beyond the Trumpian “believe me” approach. First, Northrup Grumman won’t release the taxes it pays to the State, so we don’t even know the benefits. Does NG pay any taxes to the Maryland? Apparently, “don’t ask, don’t tell” has finally found a new home at NG.

Second, unlike some corporations, Northrup Grumman can’t easily move. It has a complex, heavy plant that would be very expensive to rebuild or relocate. The jobs require high skill workers who aren’t going to move or be replaced if NG up and moves to low tax Kansas or Louisiana. Most important, they do a lot of secret work for the federal government and it is very helpful to be near DC.

Third, and perhaps worst of all, the General Assembly already gave Northrup Grumman a $37.5 million tax credit in the past session with the Governor’s enthusiastic backing. So the total amount that NG is receiving at the trough in $62.5 $57.5 million. Yet Hogan won’t release $25 million more appropriated to the schools.

Finally, corporate welfare is a bad idea that both Democrats and Republicans should loathe. Democrats should dislike it because its a giveaway to the wealthy. Republicans should hate it even more, as another government expenditure and market-distorting industrial policy. Businesses should compete on a level playing field.

Maryland is never going to compete for business as the cheapest destination. Here’s a novel idea for Gov. Hogan’s consideration: let’s continue to invest in education so that our citizens remain the best prepared and most competitive in the nation, so we can attract good jobs on our merits rather than cash.

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Will Hogan Sign the College Affordability Act?

college_debt

The Governor has indicated his support for giving $37.5 million in corporate welfare subsidies to Northrup Grumman but he hasn’t yet taken a position on this bill. State Sen. Rich Madaleno has started an online petition to encourage Gov. Larry Hogan to sign the College Affordability Act:

We have a serious problem in our state.  Too many Maryland students simply cannot afford to go to college, and too many graduates are loaded down with excessive amounts of student debt – the average debt of a college graduate in Maryland exceeded $27,000 last year.  If we do not get control of the spiraling cost of college, we will confine a generation of our young people to poor employment and economic opportunities.

This year the Maryland General Assembly passed “The College Affordability Act of 2016” (SB676 & HB1014) to address this serious concern.

This landmark bill helps Maryland families and graduates in the following critical ways:

  • Encourages families to save for college by offering matching funds for anyone who puts money annual into a college savings account, and
  • Reduces the cost of student loans by providing tax credits to Marylanders paying down their student debt.

The College Affordability Act of 2016 will impact up to 20,000 Maryland families every year, and it passed the General Assembly with overwhelming majorities.

Now it’s time for Governor Hogan to sign the bill into law!

Sign the petition to help amp up the pressure on the Governor to take a small step towards reducing college debt. It’s a Change Maryland should support.

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MoCo Delegation Protests Hogan’s Effort to Shift Money from Higher Ed to Corrections

The following is an excerpt from a letter sent by the Montgomery County legislative delegation to Governor Larry Hogan. Emphasis added.

Dear Governor Hogan:

As you know, your unilateral decision to spend $480 million on a new jail will result in unreasonable delays in funding for major projects at numerous universities. One of the projects that will be delayed by your decision to redirect funding from higher education to the Baltimore City jail is a long-planned expansion of the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) in Montgomery County. . . .

It is a sad, unfortunate and startling fact that Maryland spends more on corrections than it does on higher education. This is exacerbated by your decision to fund the Baltimore City jail over higher education. Again, we understand there is a clear need for a new correctional facility in Baltimore. However, there is a capital improvement plan already in place for such a new facility. Note that many of us would support expediting the plan given the deplorable conditions of the facility. But, expediting the entirety of the new jail facility at the expense of higher education is pure folly. Respectfully, if Maryland is “open for business,” then we must invest in higher education for many reasons, including providing an educated workforce for current and future Maryland businesses.

You can download the full letter here:

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MSEA Decries Hogan’s Effort to Shift Public Dollars to Private Schools

msea

The following is from MSEA’s press release:

MSEA Statement on Gov. Hogan’s 2016 Education Proposals

Proposed BOAST Program Would Divert Taxpayer Dollars From Public Schools to Private Schools

Annapolis, Maryland — This morning, Gov. Hogan’s office released details on his 2016 proposals for education initiatives, including the same BOAST legislation he unsuccessfully introduced last year. Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, made the following statement:

“If Gov. Hogan’s goal is to make sure every student has the opportunity to succeed, BOAST (now called the Maryland Education Credit by private school advocates) should have been the last option on his list. It’s a voucher-like scheme designed to move tens of millions of taxpayer dollars from public schools into private schools. Not only does it create new tax breaks for corporations, it would only help students who can already afford to attend private school. It would do nothing for low-income students except make it harder to fund their public schools.

“BOAST is opposed by nearly 60% of Maryland voters—including a plurality of Republicans—at a time when Marylanders believe their public schools need more funding, not less. Support for private school education is a distraction from the larger education issues at hand, like reducing standardized testing, closing opportunity gaps, and increasing public school funding.

“Educators look forward to working with legislators to reject this proposal—and a similar $5 million giveaway proposed in the governor’s budget—and advance effective solutions that truly improve our public schools.”

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AU Says No to Trigger Warnings

The Chronicle of Higher Education covered the decision by American University’s Faculty Senate to pass a resolution against “the use of ‘trigger warnings’ to shield students from instructional materials they might find disturbing.” Here is the text of the Faculty Senate resolution:

For hundreds of years, the pursuit of knowledge has been at the center of university life. Unfettered discourse, no matter how controversial, inconvenient, or uncomfortable, is a condition necessary to that pursuit. American University stands in this tradition, as stated in section 4 of the Faculty Manual. (http://www.american.edu/provost/academicaffairs/faculty-manualtoc.cfm)

Freedom of speech–protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution– undergirds the cherished principle of academic freedom. As limits, either subtle or explicit, are increasingly placed on intellectual freedom in venues of public discourse, the academy is committed to the full expression of ideas.

American University is committed to protecting and championing the right to freely communicate ideas—without censorship—and to study material as it is written, produced, or stated, even material that some members of our community may find disturbing or that provokes uncomfortable feelings. This freedom is an integral part of the learning experience and an obligation from which we cannot shrink.

As laws and individual sensitivities may seek to restrict, label, warn, or exclude specific content, the academy must stand firm as a place that is open to diverse ideas and free expression. These are standards and principles that American University will not compromise.

Faculty may advise students before exposing them to controversial readings and other materials that are part of their curricula. However, the Faculty Senate does not endorse offering “trigger warnings” or otherwise labeling controversial material in such a way that students construe it as an option to “opt out” of engaging with texts or concepts, or otherwise not participating in intellectual inquiries.

Faculty should direct students who experience personal difficulties from exposure to controversial issues to resources available at American University’s support-services offices.

In issuing this statement, the Faculty Senate affirms that shielding students from controversial material will deter them from becoming critical thinkers and responsible citizens. Helping them learn to process and evaluate such material fulfills one of the most important responsibilities of higher education.

Good decision.

(Note: American University is my employer but that, of course, does not mean that it endorses any positions taken on this blog. Nor the reverse unless otherwise indicated.)

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Hogan’s Unforced Error

education

From Facebook

Since taking office, Gov. Larry Hogan has made a variety of small mistakes, such as the Jon Stewart bait of a press conference at the start of the Baltimore riots (“When the Mayor called me, which quite frankly, we were glad she finally did.”). Overall, however, he has avoided major unforced errors as he moved forward in shifting Maryland towards his priorities. Until now.

Yesterday, Gov. Hogan announced that he would withhold $68 million in funding allocated by the General Assembly for education. The money would have gone to fully funding the program that sends extra money to the school systems in the state that are the most expensive to operate. In policy argot, the program is known as the GCEI, or Geographic Cost of Education Index.

Education is Maryland’s brand–we have consistently had the best schools in the nation. Moreover, as a high income state, we are only going to continue to grow incomes and economically with an ever more highly educated and skilled workforce.

It’s an even bigger political mistake. Gov. Hogan has generally been successful in using his position to focus debates and draw lines of comparison between him and his opponents. This time, he drew the line in a way that benefits his opponents.

He may think that he just alienated the teachers’ unions and their Democratic supporters. But education is widely popular around the State and currently by far the best issue going for the Democrats. Instead of missing a chance to undercut them completely by releasing the funds, he handed them an issue.

Even if he had released just one-half of the funds, as widely expected earlier in the day, he would have totally undermined the Democrats. Though they still would have bitterly complained, the public would have discounted them heavily as he moved halfway. He also hurts himself with the General Assembly as he had repeatedly made noises about releasing the funds during the session.

This decision will go down particularly poorly in Montgomery County in which education is like religion. Though he didn’t carry it, Hogan made inroads into Montgomery in the County in 2014. His brand of avoiding social issues like abortion and gay rights but pursuing center-right economic policies positions him well to extend those gains in 2018.

But not if keeps handing the Democrats education as an issue.

 

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Education Cuts at the University of Maryland

Education cuts by both outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley and new Gov. Larry Hogan are hitting the University of Maryland. Most of the following information is cribbed from President Wallace Loh’s letter from last month.

State Funding Cuts

Gov. O’Malley made a one-time cut of $15.6 million before leaving office in order to address budget shortfalls. While Gov. Hogan’s budget includes a 1.3% increase for UMD, he has made O’Malley’s one-time cut permanent. Moreover, he further rescinded COLAs of 2% and merit raises of 2.5%

Impact at the University of Maryland

Tuition Hike:
After four years of no increases, UMD made an unusual mid-year tuition hike of 2%. The new tuition levels will be maintained in the upcoming year.

Faculty and Staff Salaries
Taking away the COLA means that faculty and staff will see their remuneration decline in real terms. Moreover, this is now the fourth consecutive year with no merit increases, so faculty have seen no real increases over that period.

Furloughs
will take another bite out of the salaries of faculty and staff who earn more than $60,000 per year:

State-funded employees who earn less than $60K—about 40% of our workforce—will have no furloughs; those who earn $60K+ to $100K will have 1 furlough day; $100K+ to $180K will have 2 furlough days; and those that earn $180K+ will have 3 furlough days.
Eliminate vacant positions
Instead of filling current vacancies, including teaching and research faculty, positions will no longer exist.

Overall Impact

The State of Maryland has made enormous investments in the University of Maryland over the past several decades. Universities, highly labor intensive by nature, cannot attract the best faculty or build new modern facilities without it.

These efforts have paid off–the quality of the students and the faculty at UMD has steadily risen. UMD’s admission to the Big Ten was a sign not just of athletic prowess of but of the university’s desire to take its place among its academic peers.

Gov. O’Malley kept tuition down, which has only increased the attractiveness of the university and helped keep many of the most talented Marylanders in state. It also acknowledged the reality of the barrier of the cost of education for many families.

Tuition increases were bound to begin again at some point, though they are now rising from a lower start point than would have otherwise occurred. And, as already mentioned, universities need money with tuition being a major source. The real impact of these increases will depend on their rate relative to inflation.

However, as UMD is demonstrating, tuition increases alone are unlikely to makeup for cuts of these levels. President Loh expressed concern, rightly, about retaining and attracting top-notch faculty who can go to other high-level research institutions.

In short, we have to be very careful not to allow to crumble what the State and UMD have built painstakingly over many years. Beyond being a waste of past investment, we should leverage UMD more economically as North Carolina has done with UNC. Indeed, the goal should be not just to maintain UMD but to continue its upward trajectory. As a high-income state, educational advantage will be critical to continuing to advance economically.

Next Up: Why Such Big Cuts Now?

Note: Just a reminder that I am a professor of political science at American University in Washington, D.C.

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Crossing Swords on Education

The battle has already been joined between Democrats and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on education:

Fissures between Hogan and Democrats had already started to emerge over a budget proposal he submitted Jan. 23, two days after being sworn in. Hogan has stressed that his proposal includes record funding for K-12 education, even though it would provide counties with $144 million less than expected under existing education formulas.

Gov. Hogan says that education is his “first priority” and brags that his budget spends more than ever on education. Only addled Democrats who want to increase spending at out of control rates could think that his mild slowing of spending increases could constitute a cut. Democrats say he is taking an ax to schools.

So Who is Right?

Unfortunately, Hogan’s claims are so much political pap and every bit as reheated as the annual credit taking by legislators and governors alike for having balanced the state budget–something required by our Constitution.

Due to inflation and an expanding student population, spending on education always increases. One has to spend more just to stay even in real terms. This year, Gov. Hogan’s budget proposal reduces spending per pupil by $189. That’s no small amount.

Taking from Public to Fund Private

Hogan wants to further cut spending by making donations to parochial and private schools tax exempt. Sounds nice except that by reducing the tax take, Hogan cuts the funds available for education, effectively shifting spending from public to private schools. How letting me make a tax deductible gift to a DC private school benefits Maryland children remains a mystery to me.

Impact in Montgomery

Hogan would like to become the first two-term GOP governor in a very long time. Towards that end, he wants to appeal to small business owners and people sensitive on taxes in order to chip away further at Democratic margins in Montgomery. Hogan has also targeted Asian Americans, heavily concentrated in Montgomery, through his wife and family as well as substantive appeals.

Except that attempts to cut education will undercut all of these efforts, so he has to mask the cut as an increase. Education is Montgomery’s brand and there is universal commitment to maintaining it. Some may rail against immigration but when people move from around the world and struggle to live here to send their children to our schools, we’re doing something right.

In Montgomery, Hogan’s cuts will drop per pupil spending by $144–a cut that will reverberate through an already burdened school budget. Many moderate Montgomery voters who might be attracted to Gov. Hogan’s other proposals will have trouble getting past that one to even take a look at them.

 

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NAACP Criticizes PG School Cell Towers

The controversy over the plan to place cell phone towers on school grounds in Prince George’s to generate money continues. Yesterday, Prince George’s NAACP President Bob Ross criticized the proposal, according to the Montgomery County Parents’ Coalition. Objections from the Coalition to the cell phone tower center on the potential effects of radiation emanating from the towers.

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