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Democratic candidate affirms his belief in public education and says that the historic Ellicott City flood is evidence that we must address the threats posed by climate change and overdevelopment

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JAISAL NOOR: So we’re here with veteran state senator, Rich Madaleno, who was also on the Kirwan commission. Maryland’s been in the news because of the. historic flooding in Ellicott City. Governor Hogan ran on repealing the so-called rain tax, as he called it, and he successfully was able to repeal that. What would you do differently if elected governor to address issues of flooding, as well as climate change?

RICH MADALENO: Well, I think first you have to believe in it. You know, you have two political parties, one that embraces science and understands the need to take action on climate change, and one that denies it. So you need to have a governor who’s willing to lead, get out on-, to get out in front of issues like storm water management, like dealing with flooding, like understanding the connection between the way we’re planning, the way we’re growing, and its impact on things like storm water, both from a pollution standpoint and from a capacity standpoint. You can’t just ignore it. And I think, you know, Governor Hogan ran on an agenda that made fun of the work of the O’Malley-Brown administration, and we didn’t stand up and explain why we were taking these actions. I think people are starting to realize when they see the impacts of climate change, thousand-year floods that are happening every other year, they realize things have to change if we’re going to survive in a way that allows us to continue to thrive.

JAISAL NOOR: What specific steps would you take to address this kind of flooding, not only in Ellicott City, but in other parts of the state, as well?

RICH MADALENO: Well, we need to be smart about having the state help the counties develop in ways that mitigate the consequences of the development. Part of what seems to be happening in Ellicott City is the watershed that flows into Ellicott City is getting more and more paved over with impervious services. There’s no place for the water to go, which then just pushes it all towards that narrow path that then increases the likelihood of flooding. Plus you’ve got these unusual storm systems that are popping up, which one would imagine is the impact of climate change. So you’ve got to have a state government that is willing to be a partner with the local governments, to help them plan correctly. And you need a state government that’s going to be a partner with the federal government and the local governments to deal with mitigation, to deal with what to do, thinking forward with what to do with storm water.

JAISAL NOOR: And so we’re here at the, at a candidates’ forum for Baltimoreans for Educational Equity. We’ll be talking about education policy. You’ll be taking part in our June 12 forum on the Kirwan commission as a commissioner, as well as a gubernatorial candidate. What education policies set you apart from Governor Hogan?

RICH MADALENO: Well, first and foremost, I believe in public education. You know, you have the governor has spent all of his time and energy in looking at charter schools and looking at vouchers. So you have one person whose, whose agenda is weakening the public, the public schools as part of a broader Republican agenda to get the public to believe that the government can’t deliver on anything. And you have me and the Democrats, who are fighting for good public schools because they, we recognize, I recognize that the public schools are the backbone for a healthy economy and a functioning civil society. It is America’s great experiment with public schools that transformed our country and transformed the world. Everyone has followed what we’ve done, but we need to keep that up. It’s not, it’s not enough to just keep the system we have. We have to be constantly improving, and that’s what the Kirwin commission is really looking at. How, how do we transform our public schools so that we have amongst the best in the world?

JAISAL NOOR: So the charter industry says Maryland has some of the worst laws around charter schools. Public school advocates say it has some of the strongest regulations. And Maryland hasn’t seen the corruption and other, you know, things associated with charter schools in the rest of the state. If elected governor, would you work to preserve those regulations as some of the strongest model regulations in the country?

RICH MADALENO: I would, because as a legislator I have supported them. I’ve worked for them, in order to make sure that they are, they are there in place to make sure we don’t waste a lot of taxpayer dollars, because of the hard-. What’s happened in these other places around the country where there have been scandals, where charter schools have failed, that is all a waste of public dollars. Why we want to do that, especially in communities that are, that have, are under the most stress when it comes to resources, when it comes to delivering good services? You wouldn’t want to do that.

Look, the whole idea behind charter schools were to create the schools where you could experiment with different policies and different approaches to education that then would inform the way you delivered services to young people throughout the system. It wasn’t to create a parallel structure or a quasi-private structure, a way to avoid the public schools. It was to experiment with new practices that then could be used to improve the opportunity for all. We have fallen down on that in Maryland and around the country, in particular. What I see, the beautiful part of the Kirwan commission and what we’re talking about, is actually bringing in some of those best practices that we’ve seen in charter schools around our state and around the country, and using that to improve our public schools. The most successful charter schools, the most successful private schools, Catholic schools, they’re community schools. They are schools that embrace a full range of services to the young people in the building, not just giving them great educational opportunities, but making sure other issues are taken care of.

That’s what we need to do for every school in the state. I mean, my argument is if we get Kirwan right, you don’t need charter schools, because-, and you don’t need vouchers, because you will have improved the public schools to the point where, where the public is going to want to be engaged in them.

JAISAL NOOR: So part of Kirwan’s findings in the draft, in its draft report, was that Maryland spends 4.9-.

RICH MADALENO: Interim report.

JAISAL NOOR: Interim report. Spends 4.9 percent less on high-needs, high-poverty districts than wealthier districts. It also found that Maryland, between the states and the counties, need to spend 2.9 billion dollars more a year to adequately educate every student. How are we, how do you propose we do that?

RICH MADALENO: The commission did not find that. I’ll be very clear. The consultant the state Department of Education used to update our current formulas. What the Kirwan commission is doing is now trying to figure out, okay, what are the policies we need to actually move us forward, to change the outcomes? Just spending the way we’re currently doing business doesn’t seem like it’s going to change, really, the outcome. So we’re costing out what potentially some of our recommendations would look like. So I don’t know what the dollar amount is going to be.

JAISAL NOOR: How would you-. If increased revenue was needed for public schools. How would you, how would you raise that?

RICH MADALENO: And on the first part of your question, about the spending. Well, spending less in poorer jurisdictions. One of the components of our funding formulas that were laid out by our initial commission 15 years ago, the Thornton commission, it said, here is the foundation program. Here is the, here’s the program that is going to provide an educational opportunity for all young people. And the way the formula works is it assesses how much of the foundation program should be spent by the local, put up by the local government, and how much is put up by the state government. And that is, the ratio is dependent upon local wealth. So it’s inverse to local wealth. The poorer the jurisdiction, the more state money you get.

So that’s the foundation program. It works well, and the local government is mandated to put in its share. When it comes to all of these additional programs-, and there are three add-on programs for children who don’t speak English, for children with special needs, and for children who are at risk of failure due to their economic circumstances. The state provides additional money for those students that fit those three categories. But there is no requirement for the local government to add anything. So you have a situation where the wealthier jurisdictions do put in more than their match, because they can. And the poor jurisdictions, or some of the jurisdictions that don’t have the political will, don’t put in that, that amount of money. And that creates a disparity. Now, is that the fault of the state? Or is that the fault of the local governments? And who fixes that?

That is, that is a big question, because is it, should there be the mandate that local governments put in the additional, the additional money that was assumed, but didn’t flow in? Those are some of the political questions that you have wrestle with as we move forward to what a new, what a new formula would look like. And then what were the, what are the new programs and services that, that new money will pay for?

JAISAL NOOR: So if it does require more funding, I know Kirwan hasn’t put a number on that yet, how would you suggest or propose we raise additional revenue to fund public education in America?

RICH MADALENO: Well, it’s interesting that that’s automatically the question that everyone jumps to. Right now the state is sitting on a surplus. We have, through a bit of a chess match with, with the, with the governor, we have set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to start to pay for, for Kirwan when it comes in. Because of that additional capacity, we have the revenues to put into phasing in Kirwan. Look, when we totally redid the formulas in the early part of the of the, in 2002-2003, all of the changes were phased in over a six-year period. No one is envisioning that, if you go back to the numbers the consultant initially gave us, that $2 billion in state funds, more than $3 billion in total funds, nobody’s envisioning that that money materializes next year. It’s going to have to be phased in over time.

A great example: I’m confident the Kirwan commission will recommend universal pre-K for 4 year olds. Everyone believes in it. For many jurisdictions there’s no space to do that. So you can’t just mandate it next year. You’ve got to find the staff. You’ve got to find the space. It took several years when, with the Thornton commission, the big recommendation for early childhood was going to universal full-day kindergarten. Well, that took time to find the staff, the space, to have the school systems ready to do it. So that was a five-year phase in. You’d see the same thing with universal pre-K. So over time we will have the resources to put into public education.

JAISAL NOOR: Thank you so much. We look forward to having you participate in our June 12 forum.

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