In a recent commentary, Del. Herb McMillan of Anne Arundel County accuses Democrats, including myself, of spreading "fear tactics" regarding Gov. Larry Hogan's proposed K-12 education spending for next year ("Liberal Md. Dems: The sky is falling," Feb. 5).
First and foremost, I will never back down or apologize for fighting for every last dollar for our kids' education in Prince George's County. It is clear that fundamental differences exist between Republican and Democratic views of the governor's proposed education budget, and I believe that these differences are worthy of public debate.
Elected officials throughout Maryland are facing fiscal challenges in one form or another. But the true measure of our elected leaders is their priorities. And my priority is K-12 education.
As the former vice chairman of Anne Arundel County's House delegation, Delegate McMillan supports various tax cuts and overall lower government spending, often using the tag line "because it's your money." Anne Arundel's newest high school was built during the Reagan administration and just celebrated its 33rd anniversary. Anne Arundel's population is nearly double the size of Howard County, yet it has an identical number of high schools (13). Why? Because it's your money.
South River High School in Anne Arundel County will soon be educating the same number of students as the entire undergraduate class of Stevenson University. Why? Because it's your money.
Delegate McMillan commented that Governor Hogan's budget "funds our priorities." Governor Hogan's proposed budget may very well be acceptable to Mr. McMillan, but it is unacceptable to me. As proposed, Governor Hogan's budget reduces year-over-year spending per student in 11 Maryland counties.
The challenges facing Prince George's County — a county with the state's largest number of minority students in public school — are too great for me to sit quietly and merely accept less than the status quo. Why? Because it's our kids' futures.
Prince George's County is the fastest growing school system in the state with over 120,000 students enrolled this year. Tayac Academy in Fort Washington has 35 students in each first grade class. Sixty-four percent of Prince George's County public school students qualify for free or reduced lunch — a sign of poverty. While Delegate McMillan's county may not have this same demographics, Annapolis area public schools have the highest concentrations of poor students in Anne Arundel County.
Delegate McMillan may have been a PTA president in the past, yet he seems to have forgotten that our one Constitutional responsibility in Maryland is to provide an "adequate and equitable education for every child." This is a responsibility that I take very seriously, particularly for the poor and minority students in my county who deserve a quality education. I hope Delegate McMillan will put aside his partisan rhetoric and work with me to fully fund our students and give them a chance to succeed in the future.
The writer, a Democrat, represents Prince George's County's District 26 in the Maryland House of Delegates.