Today, Gov. Larry Hogan announced his intention to veto the Protect Our Schools Act (HB978/SB871)—legislation aimed at protecting public schools from privatization and improving opportunities to learn for our kids. His veto threat follows a joint appearance with President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who is known for her efforts to privatize public schools.
“Gov. Hogan has once again shown an inability to put the interests of students ahead of Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’ school privatization agenda,” said MSEA President Betty Weller. “Our students deserve schools that are held accountable to stronger, smarter, and more transparent standards. It’s ridiculous that Gov. Hogan is standing against what overwhelming majorities of Marylanders want simply because partisan and corporate interests told him to do so. We will now ask legislators in the General Assembly to pass the legislation and be prepared to override this misguided veto.”
The Protect Our Schools Act will give Maryland the strongest accountability system in the nation, leading the way by more effectively utilizing test scores and incorporating the measurement of additional factors that contribute to a high-quality, equitable education for all students. In addition to testing-based indicators, schools can be measured on student attendance, school safety and discipline, teacher quality, and other research-backed opportunity to learn indicators. While testing will still be the largest component with 55% of the model—as is required by federal law—this balanced approach will ensure students are receiving the opportunities needed to do well on those very assessments.
“No child is ever going to test his or her way out of poverty,” said Weller. “We can’t afford to spend another decade doubling down on what has failed to close achievement gaps for the last fifteen years. It’s time for a stronger and smarter approach.”
The legislation will also prevent the very privatization efforts that Betsy DeVos pushed for as a billionaire advocate. Under this bill, the state is prohibited from converting low-performing public schools into charter schools, issuing taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, creating a state-run school district, or hiring for-profit management companies to take over public schools. Instead, the legislation reserves three years for local stakeholders—including the parents and teachers who knows kids best—to write and implement evidence-based improvement plans that meet the individual needs of students in their neighborhood public school.
“Parents deserve to have a seat at the table when decisions are made on how to improve our kids’ schools,” said Elizabeth Ysla Leight, president of the Maryland PTA. “Corporate special interests trying to make a profit off our children shouldn’t be drowning out the voices of parents.”
The legislation is widely supported by Maryland education stakeholders and national experts, including teachers, school support staff, parents, civil rights groups, and leading education scholars.
“The Protect Our Schools Act is a measured approach to ensuring that the needs of all students, including immigrants, are front and center in education policy,” said Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA de Maryland. “By promising to veto the act, the governor is showing yet again that the needs of our state’s children are secondary to his need to advance Trump’s anti-public education agenda.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Hogan’s anti-public education policies face real opposition from Maryland voters. In a January 2017 Gonzales Research poll, just 19% of Maryland voters said they support funding privately operated schools—including charter and parochial schools—instead of existing neighborhood public schools. Nowhere was that opposition stronger than Baltimore City, where just 12% of voters supported that school privatization agenda. In the Washington Post poll this week, Gov. Hogan’s rating on education issues was 15 points below his overall approval rating, while public education remains by far the top priority of voters.