Gov. Larry Hogan says he has no idea why the ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense Fund are demanding that he provide more funding for Baltimore City schools. “Maybe they’re suing us for spending too much money on education?” he quipped.
Sorry, we’re going to have to call bull on that one. He knows exactly what those advocates are talking about.
As much as he has pretended during the last couple of years to not really know what’s going on with the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (aka the Kirwan Commission), as many times as he’s brushed off questions about it with vague expressions of interest in seeing a final report when it’s complete, he knows precisely where its recommendations stand. His own budget secretary is on the commission, and even if David Brinkley has been mysteriously failing to let him know what’s going on, its every move has been covered extensively in the press, particularly this newspaper. And we know he reads that — at least the editorials, which he likes to post on his Facebook page with big red Xs drawn over them.
Consequently, we are quite certain he is aware of a three-year-old calculation by the Department of Legislative Services that, had Maryland kept up with the statutorily required inflation increases mandated under a 2002 law, Baltimore City Schools would be getting about $300 million more per year than they are now. That fact was central to the deal he negotiated with legislative leaders and the Baltimore City school system in 2017 to provide additional state funds to help to overcome a $129 million projected budget deficit. That aid was designed to be (and explicitly called) a “bridge to Kirwan,” terminology that reflected an understanding that state aid to public schools in the city and elsewhere would increase beyond what the current funding formulas require within the next few years. He knows this. He was there.
We also have no doubt that Mr. Hogan is aware that the Kirwan Commission has concluded, in the words of its namesake, former University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan, that Maryland does not in fact have one of the best school systems in the nation. Rather, it is a middling state in a middling country when it comes to preparing our students to compete in a global economy. We would also be surprised if he is not aware that the Kirwan Commission found that the best school systems in the world spend more on schools with the most disadvantaged students, whereas Maryland does the opposite. We would be shocked if he isn’t familiar with the major policy ideas Kirwan has proposed to put Maryland on top — a major expansion of early childhood education; more support for special education; higher pay and standards in the teaching profession; and a reconfiguration of high school to provide direct pathways to careers for graduates, among other things. Mr. Kirwan has not been shy about discussing any of this.
We definitely know that Mr. Hogan is aware of the overall price tag the commission has established for its recommendations — an increase in education funding of about $4 billion per year a decade from now. He was quick to call it unaffordable.
Governor Hogan likes to pretend that because in each of the five budgets he has submitted, he proposed spending more on K-12 education than the year before no one can possibly complain about it. It’s true; Governor Hogan has proposed record school funding every year he’s been in office. So has every other governor dating back at least to the 1990s. But if the support you’re providing to schools is woefully inadequate, spending a little bit more can still be inadequate, and in Maryland’s case, we have extensive documentation assembled over the last two years demonstrating that it is.
Maybe Governor Hogan thinks if he ignores the Kirwan Commission, it will go away. The ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense Fund are betting that the judge overseeing a decades-old case about the adequacy of state support for city schools isn’t just going to forget about it. We don’t think the voters of this state will either. Drop the act, Governor Hogan. You know students in Baltimore and across the state are getting shortchanged. Now tell us what you’re going to do about it.