Hint: Think $2.9 billion in annual school underfunding on his watch.
On Monday morning, Gov. Hogan held a positively Trumpian press conference, attacking school systems in jurisdictions that didn’t vote for him (Baltimore City and Prince George’s County in particular), bizarrely attempting to relitigate old fights (introducing a bill called the Protect Our Students Act, an attempt to cozy up further to Betsy DeVos by supplanting last year’s Protect Our Schools Act), and trumpeted a focus on accountability, proclaiming that “when it comes to the problems in our local school systems, it is not a funding issue.”
Regardless of the governor’s political communications tactics, we know the truth: this is a funding issue. According to an independent two-year study commissioned by the Maryland State Department of Education (which is governed by the governor’s own appointees), Maryland public schools are annually underfunded by $2.9 billion dollars. That’s right: on average, every school in Maryland has $2 million less than it needs.
In what must have been a huge, totally not on purpose at all coincidence, across the street from Gov. Hogan’s press conference, the Kirwan Commission was finalizing its initial recommendations to close that $2.9 billion funding gap.
But Gov. Hogan doesn’t want Marylanders to focus on the massive funding deficit that happened under his watch and the work of the Kirwan Commission to end it. And he certainly has shown no interest in addressing and closing that funding gap himself.
Among the other things Gov. Hogan doesn’t want to talk about:
Most Marylanders simply disagree with Gov. Hogan when it comes to public education. According to a November poll:
● Marylanders ranked education and schools as their highest priority issue for the next governor and legislature to focus on, with at least double the support of any other issue like taxes, jobs, or transportation.
● 72% of Marylanders said they favor “fill[ing] the multi-billion dollar funding gap that public schools in Maryland are currently facing.” Only 21% oppose it.
● 50% of Marylanders believe that the state is spending too little on education; just 10% think it is spending too much.
Gov. Hogan has shown no interest in actually addressing the funding gap that independent analysts and everyday Marylanders know challenge their schools. He’d much rather create a smoke and mirrors show to change the conversation, casting blame on others to deflect attention from his stubborn disinterest in fixing the chronic underfunding of Maryland schools.
It’s unfortunate that this ploy involves trying to convince Marylanders that they have, in Hogan’s words, a “crisis of confidence” in public schools, undercutting the work of educators and students and playing into the DeVos-style privatization policies that Hogan loyally champions.
Across the state, Maryland educators and public education supporters are organizing to keep the focus on the Kirwan Commission and the need to address the shameful underfunding of our schools. We’ll keep the focus there, no matter what PR stunt Gov. Hogan thinks of next.