Submitted to the AFRO by Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford
Over the past four years, I have had the privilege of visiting dozens of schools across our state. I have seen the strengths, and the areas that must be improved, within our school systems.
I am proud of the work that Governor Hogan and I have done to put our schools on a new path and invest in our students – the next generation of Marylanders. Attending both public and private schools in Washington, D.C. myself and sending my three children to Howard County Public Schools, I know the dedication teachers give to our schools and the life-changing impact a quality education can have.
Education has been a top priority of our administration since day one. Governor Hogan has provided more funding for K-12 education than any other governor in Maryland history. Despite providing a record $25 billion for education in all 24 jurisdictions, some school systems are failing our children.
In his recent editorial, Congressman Elijah Cummings argued that more must still be done to address education in our state. On this, we agree. However, more funding, as he advocates, is not the sole solution. The reality is that many of the dollars we invest into our schools aren’t getting into the classrooms where they belong. We need to address management practices and priorities at the local levels, which is why Governor Hogan and I have been advocating for greater accountability in our school systems.
From grade-fixing in Prince George’s County, to mold hazards in Howard County, to corruption in Baltimore County, to fiscal mismanagement in Baltimore City, our children desperately need leaders to look out for their best interests and fight for their civil rights. Simply put, we will not succeed in improving our education system through failed policies of the past that merely throw money at the problem without addressing the root causes or creating innovative solutions.
That’s why Governor Hogan recently created an Office of Education Accountability and appointed a former Baltimore County teacher, public school parent and education policy expert to lead it. This new office will act as an independent watchdog focused on analyzing allegations of wrongdoing in our schools and providing recommendations for action to the State Board of Education or the State Prosecutor. The governor also promised to introduce legislation to strengthen this position in the next legislative session so we can continue to raise academic standards across the board, prevent future scandals and ensure our local school systems are putting our children first.
Every education policy initiative we advocate for is rooted in our firm belief that every child deserves access to a world-class education, regardless of what neighborhood they happen to grow up in. To address Representative Cummings’ concerns about Baltimore City specifically, City schools have received nearly $3.8 billion in funding since we took office – 3.5 times more than the average jurisdiction this fiscal year, and $47 million more than the legislative funding formulas called for. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, per-student spending in Baltimore City Public Schools is the fourth highest among comparable school systems nationwide.
Representative Cummings should ask why the city school system returned $30 million in school construction funds to the state in June 2017, more than half of which was intended for new heating and air conditioning systems in several city schools – a number of which are in his district.
Make no mistake – the Kirwan Commission holds great potential to improve our public education system, and we have already provided funding for preliminary commission recommendations, including $2.5 million for an early literacy program, $2 million for teacher scholarships, and nearly $5 million for a statewide assessment of school facilities. However, the full Kirwan recommendations have not been released yet, and it would be nonsensical to commit to a plan without seeing it first.
Rep. Cummings’ claim – echoed by partisan legislators and teachers union operatives – that Governor Hogan has been “diverting $1.4 billion” of the state’s casino money from public education is inaccurate at best. The fact is that former Governor O’Malley and many of the same partisan politicians promised on two separate occasions that expanding gaming revenue from casinos would be used to supplant existing education funding – a promise they did not keep.
In fact, Governor Hogan introduced legislation this year to immediately create an education “lockbox” to ensure all profits from casino revenue truly go to fund our schools as originally promised. The legislature opted to put it on the ballot instead, and the governor is bringing the full might of his bully pulpit to bear to urge Marylanders to vote yes on this ballot initiative in November. If voters approve the Hogan Lockbox initiative on Election Day, it will ensure casino revenues finally go toward supplementing education funding, rather than supplanting existing funding.
Our children’s future is surely on the ballot in November, and the Hogan administration does not take that responsibility lightly. As lieutenant governor of this great state, and as a father, I understand that our most important duty is to the next generation of Marylanders.
Governor Hogan and I are fully committed to championing and investing in educational excellence for every Maryland child. From making historic investments in public education and school construction, to expanding opportunity for students through innovative STEM initiatives, to fighting for school accountability our kids get the education they deserve, the Hogan-Rutherford ticket is only one choice in November that puts our children and their future first.
Boyd K. Rutherford is the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland.
The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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