Proposes Legislation to Fix Failing Schools, Establish Education Investigator General; Provides $2.5 Million for Emergency Repairs & $11 Million in Additional Funding for Baltimore City Schools
(ANNAPOLIS, MD – January 9, 2018) – Governor Larry Hogan announced yesterday a series of legislative and administrative initiatives to improve accountability in Maryland’s K-12 public schools, as well as funding to address emergency heating issues in Baltimore City schools that have created dangerous conditions for students and teachers in recent days. The governor was joined by Department of General Services Secretary Ellington Churchill, Chief Legislative Officer Chris Shank, Deputy Chief of Staff Tiffany Robinson, and Senior Advisor Keiffer Mitchell.
“Education has always been our administration’s top priority. We have provided record funding for education three years in row, and we will do so again this year for the fourth straight year,” said Governor Hogan. “We are so proud that we have some of the best schools in America, but unfortunately, too many deserving children continue to be stuck in schools that are consistently failing them year after year.”
The governor first addressed the dire consequences of a bill passed in the last legislative session. That bill handcuffs the state’s ability to fix failing schools and puts Maryland behind nearly every other state in compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), an Obama administration initiative to improve standards across the K-12 education system. Due to the misleadingly titled “Protect Our Schools Act,” Maryland has the second weakest education accountability system in the country by counting academic performance at just 65 percent, whereas most states have academic performance measures between 75 and 95 percent.
To correct this unacceptable inadequacy, the governor announced that he will submit emergency legislation on the first day of the upcoming session – the Protect Our Students Act of 2018 – which will require academic performance to be counted as 80 percent of a school’s composite score, aligning Maryland with the national average.
“This reckless law propels our schools into a race toward the bottom and directly threatens Maryland’s well-earned reputation as a national leader in education,” said Governor Hogan. “This isn’t about politics; this is about our children and their future.”
Governor Hogan also addressed widespread accountability concerns from parents, students, and teachers involving school systems across the state due to recent and repeated allegations of wrongdoing, corruption, and mismanagement. These include allegations of improprieties and conflicts of interest by both the former and current Baltimore County school superintendent, troubling results of a state investigation into grade changes in Prince George’s County, widespread mold issues in Howard County school facilities, mismanagement of facilities maintenance and repair funds in Baltimore City that forced school closures during recent freezing temperatures, as well as issues in Washington and Montgomery Counties.
In response, the governor announced that he will introduce the Accountability in Education Act of 2018 to create an Office of the State Education Investigator General, which will be an independent unit within the Maryland State Department of Education. The Investigator General will be selected by a commission consisting of appointees by the Senate President, Speaker of the House, and the governor, and will be charged with investigating complaints of unethical, unprofessional, or illegal conduct relating to procurement, education assets, graduation requirements, grading, education facilities, and school budgets.
“This lack of accountability in education systems all across our state cannot and will not be tolerated by our administration,” said Governor Hogan. “Not addressing it would mean that we are failing Maryland taxpayers, and – more importantly – failing our children who need help the most.”
The governor also corrected recent inaccurate statements about state funding for Baltimore City schools, detailing the fact that the administration has provided $2.85 billion for city schools since taking office, including nearly $24 million beyond the legislatively mandated funding formulas in Fiscal Year 2018 alone. Last year, the state’s investment was more than 3.5 times the state average, and per-pupil state aid was nearly twice the state average. Overall per-pupil spending in Baltimore City schools is the fourth highest in the nation, and they spend the most on administrative costs in America. Baltimore City spent just 10 percent of the city’s general fund on schools in FY 2017, whereas other jurisdictions in the state contributed an average of 43 percent. A recent investigative report by the Baltimore Sun revealed that the school system had returned $66 million in state funds that were slated for heating system repairs to city schools.
He then announced that the administration will continue to fund Baltimore City public schools above and beyond the legislative formulas by including an additional $11 million in the forthcoming Fiscal Year 2019 budget, and will immediately provide an additional $2.5 million from the state’s Catastrophic Event Account for emergency repairs to school heating systems. To ensure accountability, the funds will be overseen by the state Department of General Services.
“Let me be clear: this funding is for our kids. Baltimore City children should never have to suffer because of the adults who have repeatedly failed them,” concluded the governor.