Status Quo (1) - Maryland Children (0)

Christopher B. Summers Mar 17, 2017

State legislators once again voted to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic instead of building life rafts for thousands of children in failing schools across the state.

By recently cutting Gov. Hogan’s proposed funding for the state’s wildly popular (among parents and children) BOOST Program to pay for scholarships for low-income students, they broadcast that their political backers matter more than the lives of our future leaders.

It follows on legislators’ earlier decision to prohibit an independent chartering body to approve new charter schools, leaving Maryland with one of the weakest charter laws in the country. As it stands, individual districts approve charters, which has been likened to a system where Burger King gets to approve new McDonald’s restaurants. School districts don’t want competition from anything, even public charters, because it potentially means fewer dollars for existing schools, even if the children in those schools desperately want other options. As Chester Finn, Jr. noted here, only 23 percent of 8th grade African-American students in Maryland are “on track” for college in language arts and 11 percent in math –yes, 11 percent. This, in one of the “best” public school systems in the country. Given the results, wouldn’t reasonable people conclude the system is failing for some of our most vulnerable children? Or do the numbers – which are lives—need to get worse?

More irrational is that the majority party is gearing up to push massive new school funding next year – not surprisingly an election year. As I wrote earlier this month in The Baltimore Sun:

Feeling good about ourselves for ostensibly leveling the financial playing field as a state didn't resolve the glaring inequality of academic achievement between rich and poor and minority and white students under Thornton, and the only thing higher mandated spending will do is further restrict the state budget. The Hogan administration estimates that 83 percent of the operating budget is out of its control. By fiscal 2021, the state will have to spend $3 billion more per year because of statutory requirements — regardless of need or its ability to pay.

Coincidentally, the Department of Education just released a report showing that the $7 billion the Obama administration put into the School Improvement Grants program, which was designed to improve student outcomes and graduation rates in some of the worst performing schools across the nation, had zero impact on student achievement.  Zero. Read the whole thing here. Again, a conservative think tank didn’t write the report, the U.S. government did.

More money is always the answer in Maryland. And it never works. When will student outcomes become more important than steady incomes for political supporters?