Monthly Archives: December 2018

Swamp watch: Legislative leaders shelve new school funding another year as children suffer.

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, center, stands between Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., left, and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who each preside over Democratic supermajorities in their chambers.

By Reform Sasscer Staff

In what appears to be just side shows and theatrics to keep the public hopeful, it seems there is nothing like proper funding for the less fortunate Districts or fighting corruption in the state of Maryland. Many of us who have been following the activities of the current Maryland leadership must be crazy to imagine a corrupt government can investigate and prosecute itself.

With No Kirwan school funding this year, prolly not the next year, either. Many of us do not think we will see proper or meaningful transformation or hear anything about the funding before 2020, stated a concerned citizen on facebook as part of discussion. “The idea seems to want to prejudice the commission through unnecessary delays and interference,” the statement continued. Our fears as predicted on our December 14th article, shows a crafted plans to undermine the commission through politics of deception. There are fears, that, the findings will be watered down to suit a particular narrative and avoid the fines the state owes other jurisdictions such as Baltimore City or Prince George’s County. The timing and hiring of Dr. Alvin Thornton as Board of Education Chair in Prince George’s County connected to these issues and who is in a position to say something and has failed to issue a press release concerning the suspicious activities of Governor Larry Hogan, raises eye brows.

The joke is on the people who continue to blindly vote the corrupt leadership and sustain them in office at the expense of the larger population in Maryland. There is no excuse why children in Baltimore City and parts of Prince George’s County should have cold classes in the winter. There is no excuse why there is no independent state wide office not controlled by the Governor to tackle corruption heads on.

‘The Mike Busch, House speaker and Mike Miller, Senate president told the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education in a letter (see below) that there was not enough time for the legislature to take up both its policy changes and its funding decisions in the 90-day session that starts in three weeks.’

We reprint the report by  MarylandReporter.com below:

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At a bill signing earlier this year, Gov. Larry Hogan shakes hands with House Speaker Michael Busch, as he did with Senate President Mike Miller at the table. Governor’s Office photo

By Len Lazarick

For MarylandReporter.com

The most expensive and most controversial issue facing the new legislature — increasing the formulas for school funding — has been shelved for another year.

The House speaker and Senate president told the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education in a letter that there was not enough time for the legislature to take up both its policy changes and its funding decisions in the 90-day session that starts in three weeks.

That’s because the commission hasn’t fully determined how much its broad recommendations for education reform will cost, which state and county taxpayers will foot the bill, and where the money will come from.

The commission missed its first deadline to complete its work a year ago. The legislature gave it another year. Now it will be given another nine months to finish what it has really only begun to tackle in the last few weeks.

The 2016 legislation creating the commission gave it more than 17 tasks to perform, some very broad and some very specific, but almost half of them related to funding.

Focused on broader issues

Instead, through the guidance of Commission Chair Brit Kirwan, former chancellor of the University System of Maryland, the commission spent a good deal of its time focusing on just one of those tasks — “to determine how the State can better prepare students to be competitive in the workforce and with other high performing countries in the global economy.”

That lead the commissioners to spend considerable time and money on consultants from the National Center on Education and the Economy that had done extensive research on what “other high performing countries” had done with their schools.

The commission also studied how Massachusetts had improved its school systems in the 1990s. Massachusetts students, and those in the other countries, consistently outperform Maryland students on tests. Kirwan and its consultants never bought the idea that Maryland schools were No. 1 in the country.

This led them to a complete revamping of how teachers in Maryland are recruited, trained and employed, including a new career ladder with higher pay, reduced class time and more certification to achieve promotion.

None of this is mentioned in the legislature’s directives to the commission. The last of its 17 tasks does include a broad charge “to make any other recommendations on legislation and policy initiatives to enhance the availability of innovative educational opportunities and to enhance the adequacy and equity of State funding for prekindergarten through grade 12 public education in the State.”

The commission did spend considerable time and effort on other of its assigned tasks:

  • expanding pre-kindergarten — mentioned twice among its tasks;
  • improving career and technical education, the subject of one of its five work groups;
  • improving outcomes in schools with high concentrations of poverty and how to identify these students.

But only in the last two months has it begun to tackle “funding”– a term mentioned 10 times among its 17 tasks, and an issue that has already become contentious as the commissioners argued among themselves. (Story continues below.)

Funding at top of the list

Everybody knew the proposals would be expensive. In fact, the commission’s task at the top of its to-do list was to review the findings and recommendations of a consultants’ report that found Maryland public schools needed $2.9 billion more to achieve adequate funding in 2015. (The consultants were paid $1 million to come up with that finding.)

That was just to keep up with what the schools were already doing, not to make the vast changes in delivery and performance the Kirwan Commission envisions.

When they finally came up with $4.4 billion figure two weeks ago, everybody began to take notice, including Gov. Larry Hogan. He said that was way too much money and he wasn’t going to raise taxes to pay for it. Instead he wants to spend the casino gambling money that voters put into a lockbox on new and renovated school buildings — another huge unmet need that another legislative commission had identified two years ago. Overcrowded schools are an issue across the state, and not part of the Kirwan commission’s charge.

No appetite for raising taxes

Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch blamed Hogan for not buying into the commission’s recommendations. But Sen. Paul Pinsky, a commission member and incoming chair of the Senate education committee, said on Tuesday, “there is no consensus for an increase in revenues this session.” He said it with some regret because he is one of the legislature’s strongest supporters of increased funding for schools and the teaching profession.

What Pinsky added was a dose of political reality to what in many cases has been a high-level discussion of what is best for all students, including students from high poverty, students with disabilities and students who wanted careers without a college education.

Miller and Busch were adding their own dose of political reality. As ambitious and forward-looking as the recommendations of the commission are, the legislators will be asking what they will cost and who will pay for them. There is little doubt that some jurisdictions will get more than others, and other jurisdictions will pay more than others.

Legislative leaders would like to get those details hashed out by next fall — they had hoped it would happen sooner — not in the midst of a new session with a third of the legislators new.

Teachers, school boards and superintendents already were harping on $2.9 billion in inadequate funding. They are understandably disappointed. But the reality is that the commission faced a hard sell for some of its proposals, particularly the changes involving teachers — hiring more of them when it was already hard to fill those jobs — giving them higher pay, fewer class hours but larger class sizes.

Even the widely popular extension of school for 3- and 4-year-olds and expanded career and technical education must have fiscal notes saying how much they will cost and where the money will come from.

The commission is still wrestling with how to keep the 24 local school systems accountable. While it adopted many of the best practices of high performing schools in other countries, the commission never considered embracing a common feature they also have — strong centralized control and funding. That contrasts with Maryland’s layers of divided responsibility between local school boards and superintendents, county government funders, the state school board and education department, the legislature and the governor.

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Swamp watch: A PGCPS teenager was robbed and did the ‘right thing.’ Then his family had to move.

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By Reform Sasscer Staff

A democratic government must serve the interests of the people through real actions—not empty words. However, the current rules regulating the use of money to influence elections and government lead to grievous conflicts and distortions in derogation of the duty of fair representation that elected representatives owe their constituents. The role that money plays in our political system is an even bigger problem for a healthy democracy given the massive wealth inequality in America today.

Far too many Americans share the widely held view that both the local and Federal governments are run by and for wealthy and powerful special interests. Strong majorities of Americans have lost confidence that the local, state and Federal governments are run for the benefit “of all the people” and instead believe “a few big interests looking out for themselves” are controlling it. A very good example in the state and local level in Maryland is the role Maryland Senate President Mike Miller is said to play in Prince George’s County and across Maryland. There are allegations Maryland judges, senators and other local leaders work at his pleasure which is one reason the crime in Maryland has been very high.

The Washington Post published an article describing how one family has been forced to move in fear of death.  Its a shame that they have to live in fear for doing the right things, but the only way we can reduce crime is to get rid of the “no snitching” culture. American citizenry are going to have to decide whether or not they want to take back their neighborhoods.  To do this, they are going to have to allow their police departments to do their job without interference. They must stop second guessing these police officers’ decisions while in dangerous situations, but most of all, they must stop wringing their hands over the numbers of young blacks behind bars.

There is another article which was published by the USA Today in July 2018 which dramatically illustrates why officers suddenly seemed to stop noticing crime. The story is about the crime wave that began in Baltimore following the Freddie Gray incident. The Baltimore police department reacted to the community outrage by simply not responding to calls from Baltimore city neighborhoods.

So there it is.   Work with your local police departments (most of which have black officers who police these neighborhoods), churches, civil advocates, school guidance counselors or live with the crime without complaining. The crime in Prince George’s County is not always reported and in most cases is suppressed in order to make the county look good at the beckoning of powerful special interests. Prince George’s County is an extension of Washington DC in many ways even though County Executive Angela Alsobrooks denied those allegation during her inauguration when she stated, “Prince Georgians, write this down. We are not Ward 9!”

We must find ways to address the issues and make the county citizens feel safe. This way, we change the status quo while benefiting the county and state in the new year.

We reprint the report by Washington Post below:

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A 17-year-old who asked to be identified as V.J. looks across the parking lot of the Prince George’s County apartment complex where his family is staying with a relative. (Theresa Vargas/Theresa Vargas/The Washington Post)

By Theresa Vargas

It started the way it too often does: with a pair of shoes.

The 17-year-old had taken care of his five younger siblings all summer, without complaint, so his mother bought him a pair of Nike Air Uptempto ’96 sneakers. The $160 wasn’t easy for the hairdresser to spare, but she felt he had earned those shoes — and he loved them. The day he got them, he took a video of himself wearing them.

Then a few days later, as his mom waited for him to get home from a job interview, the teenager walked into the family’s Maryland home, wearing only his socks.

“Mom, I’m sorry,” he said before telling her that he was robbed at gunpoint. The shoes he had worn only twice and a backpack that had held his school uniform were gone.

“Baby, you could have lost your life,” she told him.

As the teenager described the robbery to me on a recent night, detailing how two men sat in a car as a third man stepped out and aimed a small black handgun at him from “two feet away,” his voice dipped to almost a whisper. His mother sat nearby, nearly crying.

“I told you once and I’ll tell you again, if that ever happens again, you do the same thing,” she said. “I don’t care if those shoes was a million dollars because I only have one of you. You did the right thing.”

The right thing. It’s a phrase that comes up often when we talk about crime. The generally agreed upon right thing to do during and after a robbery is the same: cooperate. Don’t fight for things that can be replaced. Then call the police, give a witness account and, if needed, testify in court.

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Makiyah Wilson, 10, was shot and killed in July as she went to an ice cream truck in Northeast Washington. (Courtesy of Raven Hall/family photo/Courtesy of Raven Hall/family photo)

It sounds easy. But in some neighborhoods, where fear is already part of the backdrop, the fallout of doing the right thing can carry a price higher than what was stolen.

To see that, we just have to look at how the teenager and his family spent Christmas.

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Gerald Watson,15, was shot and killed on Dec. 13, 2018 after he was chased into an apartment building. (Family photo courtesy of Alberta Pearson/Family photo courtesy of Alberta Pearson)

On Dec. 25, more than three months after the robbery occurred, his family passed the holiday in the borrowed space of a relative, too afraid to return to their own Prince George’s County home.

After he was robbed, the teenager walked for about eight minutes in his socks to his front door.

That night, his mother decided not to call the police. She was scared the men were still watching or knew one of her neighbors and she didn’t want anyone to see the officers pull up. She waited until daylight.

The next morning, the teenager told the police what happened and agreed to cooperate with the investigation. He later identified two of the three men in the car. None had even bothered to put on a mask.

I first met the teenager and his mother years ago while reporting on a story that had nothing to do with crime. It had to do with the struggle working parents sometimes face to provide for their children. I am not linking to that story or identifying the family here to protect their identity. The teenager asked only to be identified by his nickname, V.J.

V.J. said he talked to the police because he wanted those men caught. He feared for himself but also for his five younger siblings.

Soon after the robbery, their mom stopped sleeping in her room. Her bed became the couch in the living room so she could listen for any sound that might indicate the men were trying to break in. After several weeks of doing that, she and her husband, a construction foreman, packed up the family and left their home.

Since October, while they have searched for a new place, they have tumbled between friends’ and relatives’ homes, squeezing eight people into living rooms and bedroom nooks. And those friends and relatives have made room for them in already crowded spaces because they understand the risks that come with speaking up.

They understand that more than a backpack and a pair of shoes were lost.

“I watched my son shut down after this,” the teenager’s mother said. He’s a high school senior that loves to play sports, she said. “When he said, ‘Mom, I’m not going to go outside anymore,’ right there, I said this isn’t going to work. He’s 17. He should be going outside. He should have a girlfriend. He should be shooting hoops. But mothers are losing their kids so frequent, so fast now that I’m also afraid to not know where he is at all times.”

Just this year, she has been touched by the deaths of two children who were killed in a spray of gunfire.

She went to the hospital the night 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson was shot as she headed toward an ice cream truck in her Northeast D.C. neighborhood. She knew Makiyah’s mother from work and went as soon as she got a call saying the girl was hurt.

Then, a few weeks ago, she was attending an honor roll ceremony for one of her sons and noticed a fellow parent wasn’t there. She called and found out the woman, a D.C. police officer, was investigating the death of a 15-year-old who was shot 17 times in the stairwell of an Anacostia building.

“Do I have to cradle my son until I’m dead, because that’s how I feel,” the teenager’s mother said. “I don’t want to bury any of my kids.”

She knows some people will hear her story and criticize her for buying her son expensive shoes. Those people will have missed the bigger picture for a petty jab. She shared her family’s story because children are being killed for nothing and she believes it’s important that the public realize the cost that comes with trying to be part of the solution. After her son was robbed, he called the place where he had applied for a job and rescinded his application, knowing that with the move he could no longer get there on his own.

Days before Christmas, the family also hadn’t bought a tree or presents. Their space was already crowded enough. Even so, V.J and his mom said they were grateful for that temporary housing because it offered what no longer existed at their old home.

“I feel safe now that we’re not there,” V.J. said.

“It’s uncomfortable,” the teenager’s mother said. “We’re living out of suitcases. But I’m with family. And I still have my son.”

The family planned to move the first week of January into a new apartment in a new neighborhood. They know crime will still exist there. But at least none of their new neighbors will know who they are or that they did the right thing.

via Washington post 

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After state audits show excessive student absences, PGCPS relaxes attendance policy

 – Prince George’s County Public Schools has relaxed its attendance policy after two state audits found students were struggling to come to class.

The most recent audit, released earlier this month, showed 60 percent of 2018 graduates in a sample grouphad excessive absences in a required course.

Interim Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson acknowledges that those students should not have graduated under the attendance policy that existed at the time, which stated that after 10 absences in a yearlong course, a student would fail the course.

Goldson has since changed the policy to say that a student with an unexcused absence will receive a “0” for work done that day.

Goldson said she had a realization after reviewing attendance policies in other Maryland school systems.

“So what we found is, after we researched all of the local education agencies across the state of Maryland, we were just one of eight that actually connected grades with student attendance,” she said.

It’s true that the penalty for racking up absences just depends on where you live. The state superintendent in Maryland asked every school district a series of questions about grading policies, including: “Is attendance a factor in grading?”

Responses show that in some school system, showing up for class has no impact on grades or graduation.

Through an open records request, FOX 5 found that in Charles County Public Schools, a school district with a 95 percent graduation rate, some graduates missed a third of the school year unexcused.

Since October, FOX 5 has been trying to speak Maryland State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon about attendance issues across the state, but she has declined to speak. Dr. Salmon has refused every interview attempt by FOX 5’s Lindsay Watts for over a year.

Via Fox 5 DC

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PGCPS Board member asked to resign, as new county leader seeks change

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Donna L. Wiseman Ph.D. University of Missouri-Columbia – assumed the duties of Dean of the College of Education at the University of Maryland in May 2008. She served as interim dean of the college during the 2007-08 academic year.

By Reform Sasscer Staff

Dr. Donna L. Wiseman who was accused of advancing questionable schemes in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) by hiring Dr. Segun Eubanks as part of her team in the University of Maryland has been requested to resign. We previously covered part of the story on November 29th, 2018 (see here). There has been allegations that University of Maryland College Park specifically Department of Education under Dr. Wiseman was engaged in quid pro quo and hired Dr. Segun Eubanks as part of a questionable deal. This conflict of interest is said to have had major dissent which led some board members to question the rationale in a scheme which is currently ongoing.

A conflict of interests (COI) is a situation in which a person or organization is involved in multiple interests, financial or otherwise, and serving one interest could involve working against another. Typically, this relates to situations in which the personal interest of an individual or organization might adversely affect a duty owed to make decisions for the benefit of a third party.

The presence of a conflict of interests is independent of the occurrence of impropriety. Therefore, a conflict of interests can be discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs. A conflict of interests exists if the circumstances are reasonably believed (on the basis of past experience and objective evidence) to create a risk that a decision may be unduly influenced by other, secondary interests, and not on whether a particular individual is actually influenced by a secondary interest.

Based on our previous reports as received in the community, it appears the new county Executive Ms. Angela Alsobrooks has begun to address the issues heads on. However, Only time will tell whether the new county Executive’s optimism is justified in a way that her predecessors have not.

We reprint the report by Washington Post below:

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County Executive Angela Alsobrooks wants “her own representation on the board,” her spokesman said. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

By Donna St. George

Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks this month sought the resignation of a school board member appointed by her predecessor, in another sign of efforts to chart a new course for the Maryland school system.

Donna L. Wiseman, a former dean of the University of Maryland’s education school, was selected for the school board in 2017 by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D). She submitted a resignation letter as requested, officials said, and it was received Dec. 10.

Alsobrooks (D) opted for the change as she works to ensure collaboration between her administration and the school board, a spokesman said. She took office Dec. 3.

“Ms. Alsobrooks would like to have her own representation on the board,” her spokesman, John Erzen, said. While a replacement has not been named, the goal is to have a member in place and “ready to go” before a board meeting in January, he said.

Wiseman, who led the U-Md. education school for a decade and remains a professor there, said in an interview she was surprised by the change and had hoped to serve longer on the county school board. Her term was scheduled to end in 2021.

“I felt like I was just gaining my legs and learning the ropes, and I was kind of taken aback,” she said. “But on the other hand, I understand her wanting her own appointment.”

The Prince George’s board is a hybrid of appointed and elected members. Three of 14 members are appointed by the county executive, and one by the county council, while nine are elected. The board also has a student member.

In recent weeks, Alsobrooks has made two board appointments.

For chairman, she chose Alvin Thornton, a retired Howard University professor widely known for his work leading a state commission on education funding. Thornton, 70, served on the Prince George’s board in the 1990s and was chairman for three one-year terms.

Alsobrooks’s other board pick was Paul Monteiro, who worked in the Obama administration and later made a bid for county executive in Prince George’s. He works as chief of staff in the office of the president of Howard University.

The board changes follow a rocky period for Prince George’s school system, which has faced scandals over pay raises, a collapsed federal grant and inflated graduation rates.

Its previous chief executive stepped down amid controversy, and this summer the deputy superintendent for teaching and learning, Monica Goldson, was tapped for a one-year appointment as interim chief executive.

Alsobrooks has not commented on the school board’s vote this month for Edward Burroughs III as vice chairman. Burroughs was leader of a minority bloc that brought attention to problems in the school system, including inflated graduation rates.

Alsobrooks previously said she would let the board pick a vice chairman. “I don’t see any reason to think she won’t move forward with what she has already told the board,” Erzen said.

via Washington Post

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Dr. Segun Eubanks resigned after many years of conflict of interests. Eubanks’ venture was a total failure.

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Maryland lawmakers accused in 11 sexual harassment complaints in the past year

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The Maryland statehouse in Annapolis (Roberto Borea/AP)

By Ovetta Wiggins Ovetta

Eleven sexual harassment complaints were filed against Maryland state lawmakers in the past year, officials said Thursday. It was the first annual compilation of allegations in the General Assembly, ordered as part of an effort by the legislature to strengthen its anti-harassment policies.

The state legislative policy committee voted last December to require the human resources manager within the Department of Legislative Services to track discrimination complaints, including sexual harassment, as part of a larger effort to update the legislature’s anti-sexual harassment policy. In a report provided to the state Legislative Policy Committee on Thursday, there were a total of 17 discrimination complaints filed against legislators.

Eleven involved sexual harassment, the report said. One was discrimination based on gender, and five were classified as harassment of “nonprotected groups.”

No details of the allegations were provided.

Nine of the complaints against legislators were referred to the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethics, according to Lori Mathis, director of the Office of Operations and Support Services, who provided the report. One was referred for criminal investigation.

Previously, the General Assembly’s human resources manager investigated complaints of inappropriate behavior but did not track the number of complaints or their outcomes, or report any data on alleged misconduct to lawmakers.

The Women Legislators of Maryland, a legislative caucus, made overhauling the policy a top priority during the 2018 session. Del. Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), who chaired the caucus this year, called the accounting “a good starting point,” noting that “we don’t have numbers to compare it to from the past.”

“We don’t know if this is an uptick or if legislators were on their best behavior last year,” said Kelly, who wrote a column in The Washington Post a year ago that described being grabbed and humiliated by male colleagues in her early days as a lawmaker. “I’m just thankful that we have the data and look forward to continued improvements.”

Mathis told the committee that the number of complaints does not necessarily correlate to the number of lawmakers involved, since there “could be duplicate complaints” against the same person.

In addition to the complaints filed against lawmakers, there were allegations against two General Assembly employees and three individuals who are not legislative employees. The report did not include names.

Earlier this year, Del. Curtis S. Anderson (D-Baltimore City) was publicly accused of misconduct, as was lobbyist Gil Genn.

The ethics committee spent eight months investigating the allegations against Anderson, who denied wrongdoing. The panel found no evidence to support a 2004 sexual assault claim but concluded that he had made inappropriate sexual comments over the years. The panel found there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Anderson “engaged in conduct contrary to the General Assembly’s anti-harassment Policy.”

This summer, Anderson was stripped of his leadership position by House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).

During the height of the debate over how to rework the anti-sexual harassment policy, Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) accused Genn of touching her inappropriately at a social gathering in Annapolis. Genn vehemently denied the allegation.

On Thursday, after hearing the report, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) asked: “What happens to complaints against lobbyists?”

Victoria Gruber, executive director of the Department of Legislative Services, said they are sent to the State Ethics Commission, which, she said, is designing a plan for dealing with complaints.

Via Washington Post 

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Ambitious Md. effort to boost, change education funding delayed another year

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William E. Kirwan, shown in 2016, chairs Maryland’s Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

By Ovetta Wiggins

A Maryland panel charged with reshaping the state’s school systems posed a daunting question nearly two years ago: How do you transform a “middle of the pack” American education system into one of the best-performing in the world?

Hundreds of hours of discussion later, the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education has come up with some ideas for the General Assembly and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to consider during the 2019 legislative session, which begins next month.

The recommendations, designed to ensure that all students, regardless of race and ethnicity, are “college- and career-ready” by grade 10, include broadly expanding early-childhood education, sharply increasing teacher pay and greatly boosting spending on special education.

But the panel, also known as the Kirwan Commission, won’t offer spending formulas for how to pay for it all, delaying for another year any significant action.

The delay staves off what probably would have been a major battle within the Democratic-majority legislature, and between Hogan and lawmakers, over how state and local governments could come up with billions more dollars for schools.

It is the commission’s second request for more time since the panel was created in 2016. The still-pending final report was originally due last December.

Toward the end of a marathon meeting Wednesday, less than an hour before the commission was scheduled to adjourn, chairman William E. Kirwan distributed a letter from state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) suggesting the panel continue its work into a third year.

“Given the breadth of the commission charge and the rigor and the thoroughness with which the Commission has addressed its charge, we understand that it is virtually impossible for the formulas to be completed in time for action during the 2019 Legislative Session,” the letter reads. “The work of the commission is too important to rush through without something so critical as funding formulas that will ensure that the debate in the General Assembly is backed by the best available data.”

Commission members had thought that the state would use casino gambling revenue to help pay for its recommendations. Voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question Nov. 6 that mandated using all tax revenue from the state’s six casinos to supplement spending on K-12 education.

But last week Hogan proposed spending $1.9 billion from casino money on school construction over the next five years, which would leave less available for school operations. The governor has said the casino revenue will generate $4.4 billion over the next 10 years, and he has vowed not to approve any tax increases to pay for Kirwan recommendations.

Hogan also balked at the idea of the state giving additional money to local school districts without putting in place stronger accountability measures.

“Just investing record amounts of money doesn’t necessarily solve all the problems we have in education,” he said. “We want to make sure dollars are getting into the classrooms and they are not being wasted.”

Miller and Busch’s letter said the governor’s remarks indicate “we have more work to do to convince the Governor that these generational changes are worth undertaking.”

In an interview Thursday, Busch criticized Hogan’s desire to spend so much of the casino revenue on school construction. He said the state needs to invest in new policy as well.

“You have to have both,” Busch said. “It’s nice to have a shiny new car, but if it doesn’t have a motor in it, it’s just going to sit in the driveway.”

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said in a statement that the governor “supports continuing to invest in our schools in a way that is fiscally responsible and incorporates strong accountability.”

The General Assembly’s Spending Affordability Committee decided earlier this week that $200 million would be available next year to begin implementing some of the commission’s recommendations. The money — a quarter of what commission members were expecting in fiscal 2020 — would go to a partial pre-K expansion, teacher raises, funding for behavioral health and special education, and grants for schools with high concentrations of students from low-income families.

State Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), who serves on the Kirwan Commission, cautioned members that there was “no consensus now to raise revenue in this coming session” and that getting funding for additional recommendations would be a “heavy lift” in the legislature.

“Unconscionable. . . . Why are we conceding?” commissioner Kalman Hettleman said during the nearly 10-hour meeting Wednesday. “Don’t we have an obligation to say what is adequate for the kids?”

The commission, which will meet again in January, plans to ask for an additional $125 million in education spending for the coming year, on top of the $200 million the affordability committee recommended.

The commission is pushing for significantly more funding for school initiatives in the future — $1.5 billion for fiscal 2021 and $2.6 billion in 2022, for example. By 2030, the proposal increases to $3.8 billion, a reduction from an earlier proposal for $4.4 billion in funds.

It is also recommending the state expand pre-K to all 4-year-olds over the next decade, and to all 3-year-olds from families who earn less than 300 percent of the federal poverty limit. Maryland offers free pre-K to 4-year-olds based on income eligibility. But the panel said top-performing countries offer free or low-cost early-childhood education to all children ages 3 to 5.

Members of the commission clashed over several other recommendations, with some on the panel saying they would be a hard sell to lawmakers and the public.

Among them was a plan to increase the average class size from 20.5 students to 23 students in grades four and above. The overall student-teacher ratio would drop from 15-to-1 to 12.5-to-1 under this plan, the commission said, because more teachers would be hired to work in small groups.

Ultimately, the panel decided to recommend increasing class sizes once schools showed improvements in student performance.

Some commission members wanted to add $300 million to help students with special needs and those who receive English as a Second Language services. Others balked at the extra expense.

“This is an area that we need to be very aggressive,” said commissioner Craig Rice, a Democrat who serves on the Montgomery County Council. “They need the services right now. If we are going to be closing that equity gap and opportunity gap, this is where it is.”

Outgoing state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno (D-Montgomery), who also is on the panel, said he agreed with Rice’s sentiments but did not think such spending was feasible, given budget constraints, “if we want this whole package to be taken credibly.”

A scaled-back version of the proposal was adopted.

Via Washington Post 

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A Special Holiday Message

291734-Season-s-GreetingsWe are deeply thankful for your support and commitment to Reforms in Prince George’s County and Maryland in 2018. We look forward to working with you in 2019.

In an era of shifting policy and changing markets, Reform Sasscer Movement stayed committed to championing for Socio economic, political and Education Reform agenda and fighting corruption heads on among other things in Prince George’s County and Maryland. We also championed for the powerless around the country and the world through our education advocacy itinerary.

May this Merry Season bring glory to your life, peace to your mind, and joy to your heart! Wishing you a Prosperous New Year!

Warm Regards,
The Reform Sasscer Movement Team

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