Some Democrats say Larry Hogan is taking credit for their educational accomplishments, but will either candidate’s policy be transformational for public schools?
LARRY HOGAN: I want to take a minute in support of my important ballot initiative that requires casino revenue to be placed in a lockbox dedicated to education.
JAISAL NOOR: Governor Larry Hogan is coming under fire for falsely taking credit for a ballot measure that would ensure casino revenue goes to schools, as was promised a decade ago when Maryland legalized gambling.
LARRY HOGAN: This proposal helps us end educational inequality, boost school safety, teacher salaries, and school construction.
JAISAL NOOR: Reports have found that gambling profits pledged to boost school funding, an estimated $500 million a year, didn’t actually increase state spending on education. Instead, the increases were diverted to other purposes. In Annapolis Hogan did introduce his own bill to fix this, but it failed to pass.
LARRY HOGAN: Today we are introducing the Commitment to Education Act of 2018, which will increase education spending by more than $4.4 billion over the next decade by phasing in casino revenues from the Education Trust Fund over the next four years.
JAISAL NOOR: As we reported earlier this year, legislators backed a proposal to create a ballot measure, arguing this was the only way to prevent future administrations from again diverting the funds.
MAGGIE MCINTOSH: And the really important part is, that I think my bill acknowledges, is we established this fund at the ballot box with the voters. Only the voters can put that lockbox on there. If I just pass a bill that says this money ought to be an enhancement, the governor can take that away the next year.
JAISAL NOOR: What Hogan’s ad doesn’t mention is the governor sets the budget. So for the past four years, it was Hogan who failed to give additional funding. The Hogan campaign didn’t respond for a request for a comment for this story. But he argues this practice was started by his predecessor, Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley, which is true.
LARRY HOGAN: We’re already funding our schools at record levels. Passing the lockbox referendum ensures that continues for generations.
JAISAL NOOR: It’s also true that Hogan has funded schools at their highest levels ever, beyond what is mandated by law. But the state’s own studies found that since it froze increases to inflation after the Great Recession, schools have been shortchanged by billions of dollars. Baltimore lost out on over $250 million in one year alone. The lockbox that McIntosh sponsored would help gradually fix that, phasing in funding over four years. But another measure that was defeated this past session would have gone a step further. Delegate Mary Washington proposed immediately restoring the full amount of funding.
MARY WASHINGTON: This legislation would take effect now. It’s not requiring the voters to vote on something that they already voted on. They voted- we voted in referenda in 2008 to use gaming dollars to increase school funding. Then we voted again in 2012. So I don’t think we need to- we don’t need to ask the voters again if they want to prioritize public education.
JAISAL NOOR: But critics said this measure had the same flaw as Hogan’s proposal: It could be circumvented by future laws. They also argued shifting $500 million immediately in the budget would come at the expense of other social services. Meanwhile, Hogan appears to have softened his stance on Baltimore schools in recent public appearances. Before hitting the campaign trail, Hogan frequently claimed Baltimore schools face a crisis of mismanagement, not underfunding.
LARRY HOGAN: We cannot allow children to be punished year after year because their adult leaders are failing.
CHRIS PABST: The Governor went on to say the problem is not with funding. He says there’s enough funding. He says there’s not enough accountability.
JAISAL NOOR: Meanwhile, Hogan’s Democratic opponent Ben Jealous has vowed to raise teacher pay, fully fund schools, and expand Pre-K to four-year-olds. Critics say Jealous has yet to articulate how he will fully fund these programs, but Jealous says he can do so by legalizing and taxing marijuana and passing a millionaire’s tax on the 1 percent.
Polls show education remains a top priority for Maryland voters, and they will have contrasting visions and approaches to choose from in November. But education advocates say to truly transform Maryland schools, the answer lies in empowering communities.
LAWRENCE GRANDPRE: You need to have a vision of accountability, but to the community, in terms of actually producing a framework for educational results that the community finds sufficient. Which may include curriculum, may include incorporating local community-based organizations into schools, may include diversity of programming. And that typically isn’t talked about in the funding debates. They talk a lot about iPads and air conditioning. And those things are good. But when you’re looking at results in a way that actually meets what the community is talking about, the actual parents, and the majority minority- 80-90 percent of the people in Baltimore City Public Schools are African-American. Their conversation is a bit different than what the advocates and the politicians are talking about. And I think that that needs to be a central part of the conversation.
JAISAL NOOR: For The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.