WASHINGTON — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan criticized the operation of school systems from Baltimore City to Washington County as he announced he wants to create the office of Education Inspector General.
At the same time, Hogan announced $2.5 million in emergency aid to Baltimore City schools for repairs to the school system’s buildings. Failing boilers left students and teachers bundling up in coats, hats and gloves in an effort to keep warm and eventually forced the closure of the school system while maintenance crews scrambled to complete repairs.
Hogan also said he’d add another $11 million for Baltimore City schools. “Let me be clear,” he said: “This is not to reward the people responsible who have failed — this funding is literally about saving kids from freezing in winter.”
At his Monday morning news conference, Hogan complained about legislation passed in the last General Assembly session and declared “This isn’t about politics. This is about our children and their future.”
Hogan announced emergency legislation that he calls The Protect Our Students Act, which would change the way schools are scored in order to comply with the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act.
Under legislation passed in last year’s General Assembly session, lawmakers created a formula that would put academic performance scoring at 65 percent of a school’s rating. Hogan called that a “misguided bill” that “prohibits any real improvements to persistently failing schools.” Hogan said most states set the academic performance score at somewhere between 75 and 95 per cent. Under his proposal, Maryland would set that score at 80 per cent.
Answering critics who say many of the problems in school systems across the state are rooted in a lack of funding, Hogan insisted, “It is not a funding issue. It’s an accountability and management and competency issue.”
Referring to cases that made headlines in school systems from Prince George’s County where a grading scandal allowed hundreds of students to graduate without meeting state requirements, to Howard County, where classrooms where mold was found and sickened students, Hogan said it was time for new accountability from school systems.
Hogan said his administration will introduce legislation to establish an independent office of a state education investigator general. Hogan said the job would be to investigate “complaints on unethical, improper, illegal conduct on matters including procurement, education assets, graduation requirements, grading, education facilities and budgets.”
The Maryland State Education Association, which represents teachers in Maryland public schools, called Hogan’s statements “an attack on public education.” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who is running for governor, said the current state board of education, whose members are appointed by the governor, already has the power to conduct audits of school systems. “Right now, he has the ability to do that.”
Baker said that if the governor really wanted to help school systems, “Maybe he should meet with superintendents once a week.”
In Montgomery County, Janis Sartucci, with the Parents Coalition, whose members have been sharp critics of spending and management practices in the local school system, welcomed Hogan’s plan for an education inspector general.
“It’s long overdue and desperately needed,” said Sartucci. “If the governor is looking at bringing in additional resources and additional oversight, we would fully support that.”
The Maryland General Assembly session starts Wednesday.