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At luncheon for Lansdowne High's Academy of Finance, Comptroller Peter Franchot says decision to end program 'ill-informed'

At luncheon for Lansdowne High's Academy of Finance, Comptroller Peter Franchot says decision to end program 'ill-informed'
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, left, and Mike Martin, who's in charge of the Academy of Finance at Lansdowne High School, at the program's annual luncheon. (Cody Boteler / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot on Thursday expressed his dissatisfaction that the Academy of Finance program at Lansdowne High School is shutting down in two years.

Franchot, speaking at an annual luncheon for the students in the program, said he thought it was “cynical” and “ill-informed” for the school system to end the program.

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He also said it was “goofy” that anyone would think the half-credit or one-credit courses some school systems require for students to meet financial literacy requirements for graduation could adequately replace the full Academy of Finance program. Students in the academy magnet program take classes in economics, accounting, personal finance and banking and credit.

Franchot said financial literacy would be the first thing he brings up to when he speaks with Darryl L. Williams, who was named this week as the new superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools.

“Maybe we should sit down, have a conversation [about the Academy of Finance] about the kids that are still in the program, how indispensable it is,” Franchot said.

Brandon Oland, a spokesman for Baltimore County Public Schools, said the system is “always open to discussion with elected officials about student course options.”

“We strive to offer varying magnet programs that best meet the needs and interests of students and best prepare them for being college and career ready,” Oland said in a statement.

He also provided data showing that the programs at Lansdowne and Overlea high schools — the two schools where the magnet program is offered in Baltimore County — have low enrollment.

In the 2017-2018 school year, for example, of the 40 open seats at Lansdowne, just 16 were filled. At Overlea, which had 75 open seats, just 20 were filled.

Mike Martin, who directs the program at Lansdowne and was recognized recently in Annapolis for his work, said he believes financial literacy is the most important subject that high school kids can learn. He said he was hopeful that the new superintendent and the hybrid school board would reconsider the decision to end the Academy of Finance.

Martin said it would be “really awesome if [Williams] would reconsider.”

In an email, the incoming superintendent said it was “too early” for him to respond to questions about a specific program in Baltimore County.

As Franchot concluded his remarks, he gave Martin an official recognition and said he would lobby for any future statewide financial literacy program to be named “The Mike Martin Program” in his honor.

The comptroller also made a promise to the nine graduating seniors. If he’s still in power and they visit his office, he’ll help them find work, he said.

“You'll be able to work for us if you need work, or you can get advice on your career,” Franchot said. “You guys, I’m adopting in your careers.”

This story has been updated.

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