Ben Jealous and Larry Hogan Debate Education — and It Got Interesting

If you missed last night’s debate, make sure you get caught up on what was said.

Last night’s debate between Ben Jealous and Larry Hogan featured one question on education — with a lot to unpack from the back and forth. Here’s a deep dive on what was said, what was proposed, and what might leave people scratching their head.

First, the Question

The Washington Post’s Ovetta Wiggins asked:

“Mr. Jealous, both you and the governor have said one way or another that where a child lives should not determine their destiny. Despite that, Maryland has one of the sharpest achievement gaps in the country. MSDE statistics show that 45% of students who don’t receive free and reduced meals are proficient for example in Algebra one. Meanwhile only 13% of students who come from poor families are proficient in the subject. What three concrete actions would you take to close the achievement gap? And please be specific.”

Ben Jealous’ Answer

Jealous outlined the three actions he’d take succinctly:

  1. Increase teacher pay by 29% “ so we can recruit and retain the best teachers in the country.” He has also proposed ensuring that all support staff are guaranteed a living wage.
  2. Establish universal, full-day pre-kindergarten “to make sure that every child shows up to kindergarten ready to learn.”
  3. Expand career technical education “to make sure that every child comes out of our schools ready for a career, not just for college.”

Larry Hogan’s Answer

Hogan responded by talking about:

  1. Funding levels during his time as governor (omitting the nearly $100 million in cuts he’d made).
  2. Ensuring that casino revenues increase school funding, something he now supports after he redirected $1.4 billion in casino revenues meant to increase education funding to other parts of his budget.
  3. Blaming Martin O’Malley (who redirected $500 million in casino revenues to other parts of his budget, by the way) for inflating state test scores.


The debate format allowed for the candidates to then directly discuss the issue with each other. Jealous went first, noting that “the governor went to two minutes and 45 seconds and never told us what his plan was because he doesn’t have one.”

He then went on to say, “Our kids suffer when our leaders don’t lead. You keep sending money to private schools in the form of vouchers and touring around with Betsy DeVos, and you don’t put a plan on the table.”

Hogan then spent his time minimizing his like-mindedness with DeVos, arguing that their joint tour of a Montgomery County elementary school “was about as far as the connection goes.” Which is accurate if you ignore Hogan’s a) identical budget cuts to DeVos; b) efforts to lower oversight and standards for charter schools; c) distaste for listening to actual educators; and d) work to expand private school voucher programs.

Despite his well-documented support for private school vouchers, Hogan then unleashed a real puzzler:

“The Betsy DeVos-Trump-Voucher Program wasn’t my idea. It was Mike Busch’s idea. He worked it out with the teachers union, was passed almost unanimously by Democratic legislators. … I went along and signed the bill, but it wasn’t my bill, and it’s not the Hogan-DeVos voucher program.”

Let’s be clear: MSEA has never supported a private school vouchers program. In fact, we’ve fiercely opposed them whenever they’ve been proposed.

The program is also not a bill. A bill supporting private school vouchers has never passed both chambers of the General Assembly. There was never a bill solely on vouchers that was passed “almost unanimously” or that the governor “went along and signed.” The vouchers program exists solely in Governor Hogan’s budget. And he has proposed increased funding for it every single year of his administration while trumpeting his support of it in front of receptive audiences. Apparently he realizes how unpopular private school voucher programs are with voters and now he is running away from his own position.

If you want to check out the rest of the exchange, including Ben Jealous noting that educators “endorsed me because I meet with all of them. You won’t even call them. You call them thugs,” check out the below video of the debate.