Archives for category: Maryland

In this opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun, Kalman R. Hettleman describes the creation in Maryland of a new state agency that has the same functions as the Maryland State Department of Education and the power to override local control. This agency is supposed to guarantee “accountability,” but it’s limitless power leaves many unanswered questions.

A bombshell, with uncertain force, is about to land on school reform in Maryland. It’s the startup in the next several weeks of the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) created under the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. More than any other part of the blueprint, the AIB is a radical experiment in school governance — untested anywhere in the U.S. — with virtually limitless authority to make or break school reform for generations to come.

The AIB’s super-muscle comes from its unambiguous power to fully govern public schools. This means it can usurp the functions of the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and control local school policies.

As a member of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (known as the Kirwan Commission) that drafted the blueprint, I favored the concept of the AIB. I still do. But I recognized that opponents, though some were overwrought, had a point. The seven-member board, to be appointed by the governor from a list of nine persons just selected by the AIB nominating committee, could actually cause more bureaucracy and less accountability, unless it acts wisely.

Predictably, formidable political groups opposed such a drastic departure from current law and practice. The MSDE board, state superintendent and local school district boards and superintendents argued that they would be micromanaged; in the process, they said, local control — so sacrosanct for so long — would be emasculated.

In addition, Maryland just appointed a State Superintendent with impeccable reform credentials.

Read the article. If you understand why the state is creating a powerful new agency to run its schools, please let me know.

The Education Law Center announces good news for equity for children in Baltimore City:

January 24, 2020
By Wendy Lecker
On January 21, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Audrey Carrion paved the way for Maryland’s long-running school funding litigation, Bradford v. Maryland, to proceed. Judge Carrion denied the State of Maryland’s motion to dismiss and ordered the case be prepared for a trial on the merits.
The Bradford case was first filed in 1994 by Baltimore City public school parents, alleging that the State’s underfunding of City schools violated students’ constitutional right to an adequate education. After granting partial summary judgment in favor of the parents in 1996, the parties entered into a consent decree requiring increased funding. Despite enactment of a new school funding formula in 2002, the State consistently failed to fully fund it.
In recent reports on the school funding system, the State itself has found the Baltimore City schools remain severely underfunded. The funding shortfalls have, in turn, resulted in glaring deficits in essential resources in Baltimore schools, which serve a very high percentage of low-income, at-risk students. Schools are lacking in teachers, guidance counselors, librarians and basic curricular offerings. Many buildings are in disrepair. Student outcomes are inadequate, graduation rates are low, and dropout rates are double the state average.
Faced with consistent State failure to remedy these intolerable conditions, the Bradford parents petitioned to reopen the case in March 2019. The plaintiffs are represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the ACLU of Maryland, and the firm Baker Hostetler.
The State moved to dismiss the case, claiming the petition was untimely, the 2002 consent decree was terminated, and the case presents a purely political question not suitable for judicial review.
In denying the State’s motion, Judge Carrion ruled that the Bradford court intended to retain jurisdiction until the State fully complied with the consent decree, and the consent decree remains viable. The Court also rejected the State’s argument that the case involved a purely political question, ruling that Maryland courts retain an inherent authority to review State compliance with the constitutional guarantee of education.
Judge Carrion’s ruling paves the way for the vindication of the constitutional rights of children in the Baltimore City Schools after a nearly two-decade struggle to secure adequate resources for their public schools.
Wendy Lecker is a Senior Attorney at Education Law Center
Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
Baltimore Parents Move to Re-Open School Funding Lawsuit


Politico Morning Education reports that the Trump administration has joined a court case on the side of a Christian school in Maryland that was removed from the state’s voucher program because it discriminates against LGBT students and teachers.

This is not surprising. The DeVos family has funded anti-gay organizations and state referenda for many years. The Trump administration takes the view that if religious organizations discriminate, that is no one’s business, even though they are receiving public funds. Thus, DeVos and Trump carve an exemption in civil rights law. It is okay to discriminate against persons if your discrimination actions stem from sincere religious beliefs. Where will this end? Gay students and teachers today, black students and women tomorrow. The civil rights protections that have been a sturdy bulwark against bigotry since 1964 are being picked apart, one group at a time. The federal government has embarked on a religious campaign to eviscerate civil rights protections, and this campaign begins with the least numerous, least popular group: Gays. So long as a school sincerely believes that gay students and teachers are loathsome, the state and federal government will not stand in the way of their discriminatory acts.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION BACKS CHRISTIAN SCHOOL’S LAWSUIT OVER VOUCHERS: The departments of Justice and Education on Tuesday sided with a private Christian school that’s fighting Maryland’s decision to kick it out of a state voucher program over its anti-LGBTQ views. The Trump administration filed a “statement of interest ” backing the federal lawsuit filed by Bethel Christian Academy, which accuses Maryland education officials of unconstitutionally discriminating against the school based on its religious beliefs.

— Eric Dreiband, the assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, said in a statement that the Constitution protects religious schools from being forced “to choose between abandoning or betraying their faith and participating in public programs.”

— Robert S. Eitel, a top adviser to Secretary Betsy DeVos, said in a statement that “Americans do not give up their religious liberty protections simply because they may participate in a government program or interact with a state government.” He added that the Education Department “cannot sit on its hands as the First Amendment rights of Bethel Christian Academy are violated.”

— Maryland education officials have previously said they were trying to prevent taxpayer money from flowing to institutions that discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, which is prohibited under the rules of the voucher program.

— A main point of contention is whether the language in the school’s handbook that doesn’t accept same-sex marriage or opposes transgender people complies with the state’s nondiscrimination requirement. The school says it doesn’t consider sexual orientation in its admissions process.

— A federal judge ruled earlier this month that the lawsuit, which is being brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom, could move forward. The judge ruled the school had presented a “plausible” case that the state had “unjustly conflated the school’s religious beliefs with discriminatory behavior.”

Pete Tucker keeps track of the Washington Post’s negative coverage of Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, who is running against Republican Governor Larry Hogan. See here for his earlier story on this matter.

The Post slants its headlines, as you will see, to put Jealous in a bad light and to insulate Hogan from Association with Trump.

Jealous, a former leader of the NAACP, is a genuine progressive. The Post doesn’t like that.

After the recent primaries, the Post hailed Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, the neoliberal who curtailed public sector pensions, as a real Reformer. Does the Post have a vested interest in the status quo?

Pete Tucker, a freelance journalist in D.C., is puzzled by the Washington Post’s spin on the Maryland Governor’s Race.

He amply documents the Post’s friendly coverage of Republican Governor Larry Hogan, and its consistently unfriendly treatment of his Democratic opponent, Ben Jealous.

Hogan supports school choice. Hogan appointed Checker Finn and Andy Smarick, two hard-line advocates of school choice, to the State Board of Education. Ben Jealous supports public schools and was endorsed by the Network for Public Education Action Fund.

Tucker writes:

“In 1966 Ann Todd and Fred Jealous couldn’t get married in their home state of Maryland because they were an interracial couple. Five decades later their son Ben Jealous is the Democratic nominee for Maryland governor.

“If Jealous wins in November he will become Maryland’s first African-American governor, and the nation’s third-ever elected black governor. (Jealous hopes to share this latter distinction with two fellow Democrats also endorsed by Bernie Sanders: Andrew Gillum of Florida and Stacey Abrams of Georgia, who would also be the first-ever black woman governor.) There are presently no black governors in office.

“Jealous, the former and youngest-ever head of the NAACP, faces stiff competition, and not just from incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. The Washington Post – which dominates D.C.’s media landscape, including vote-rich Maryland suburbs in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties – has set its sights on defeating Jealous.

“This may seem bizarre. Why would the Post throw its weight behind a Republican instead of an historic candidate like Jealous? Especially when the Post’s aggressive reporting on President Trump has led to record-breaking readership and heaps of praise from Democrats.

“But the Post’s resistance to Trump is a mirage, and the paper’s politics remain far from progressive.

“Once Trump isn’t around, what will be left for the Post to resist? Surely not war, the Post supports all of them. Not climate change, where the paper’s record is mixed at best and includes support for both fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline. And not inequality, as the Post is owned by the richest man alive, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Like Amazon, the Post is anti-union – that is, against workers collectively organizing to improve their lot, an essential tool in addressing inequality.

“It’s these stances – along with the Post’s record of targeting candidates with strong African-American and progressive support – that help explain the paper’s backing of Hogan and over-the-top opposition to Jealous (who I am supporting). Still, the extent to which the Post is willing to go to sway the election is surprising.”

The Post coverage emphasizes how “popular” Hogan is.

Tucker says,

“Maryland has twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, so Hogan needs strong Democratic support to win reelection; and the Post is determined to see that he gets it.

“Hogan, the Post explains, is widely admired for his “winning personality” and “personal appeal.” He’s just a regular guy who is “real down-to-earth,” “follows his gut” and “knows his way around a barroom.”

LWith fawning coverage like this it’s unsurprising that Hogan is “astonishingly,” “stunningly” and “hugely” popular, as the Post tells it. (The word “popular” is used so much one reader asked if the Post had exchanged it for Hogan’s first name.)”

But when the Post covers Jealous, it paints him as a leftist who wants to “soak the rich” to pay for his expensive ideas.

Tucker writes:

“Ben Jealous’s platform – which includes a $15 an hour minimum wage, single-payer health care and free state college tuition – is liked by Marylanders. So the Post downplays these policies (which it opposes), and paints Jealous as a “coup leader” who is too radical to vote for.

“Jealous’s “left-wing advance” is “irresponsible” and “anything but… centrist,” the Post tells readers. His “craven,” “reckless” “left-wing platform” will “blow a Chesapeake Bay-sized hole in the state budget.””

All the more reason for the voters of Maryland to ignore the Post and vote for Ben Jealous and begin to repair the state.

Politico reported that Ben Jealous, who won the Democratic primary for governor in Maryland, is no fan of charter schools. His opponent, Republican Governor Larry Hogan, appointed zealous charter advocates to the state board of education.

The Network for Public Education Action Fund has reviewed Ben Jealous’s outstanding record and endorses him for Governor of Maryland.

The good news is that privatization has entered into the realm of public awareness. That’s the first step in stopping it.

PUBLIC SCHOOL ADVOCATE VIES FOR MARYLAND GOVERNOR: Former Vice President Joe Biden and Maryland’s biggest Democratic Party names are throwing their support behind gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, who won a contested primary late last month and will face incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan this fall. Jealous recently told Morning Education that his family has long been involved in the “battle for educational equity.” His mother, Ann, at age 12, successfully sued a local high school in an effort to desegregate it and was part of the first class of black girls to graduate. She later became an activist and a teacher in Baltimore.

— Jealous has the backing of the state teachers union and his education platform is an easy one for traditional public school advocates to get behind. The former NAACP president wants to fund universal preschool by legalizing and taxing marijuana use and to boost teacher pay through lottery and casino funding. He also wants to tackle poverty in education through “community schools,” which would provide a host of services like “counseling, job training, meals, mentoring programs and health clinics,” according to his plan.

— Jealous’ plan doesn’t mention charter schools, which he told Morning Education have been “labs of innovation” in Maryland. But he said Hogan is “out of step with the people of Maryland in wanting to expand public charter schools.”

— While Jealous led the NAACP, the organization joined the New York City teachers union in a lawsuit against the city’s Department of Education to halt school closures and prevent charter schools from sharing buildings with public ones. In a 2011 op-ed for HuffPost, Jealous wrote that traditional public school students are being “forced into shorter playground periods than their charter school counterparts, or served lunch at 10 a.m. so that charter students can eat at noon. The inequity could not be more glaring.”

Both houses of the Maryland legislature endorsed legislation to limit the hours of standardized testing in the schools.

But don’t celebrate.

The limit is 2% of instructional time.

That means that students in elementary and middle schools may be subjected to 24 hours of standardized testing! High school students may be tested for 26 hours!

How humane. A third grade student–eight or nine years old–compelled to spend 24 hours taking a standardized test.

Whatever happened to essays, book reports, research, projects, genuine exhibitions of mastery?

Why so many hours of standardized testing? Who benefits?

Yesterday the Maryland General Assembly voted to override Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill meant to protect public schools against the privatization agenda of Betsy DeVos.

Maryland has a rightwing Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, who has appointed a pro-privatization state board of education.

But Maryland also has a legislature controlled by Democrats. They hold a veto-proof majority.

The legislature passed an anti-privatization bill called the “Protect Our Schools Act,” intended to block state takeovers and the Trump/DeVos agenda.

Governor Hogan vetoed the bill on Wednesday, saying it would prevent the state from identifying low-performing schools and taking them over (and privatizing them). His appointed state board agreed with him.

Yesterday, the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode Hogan’s veto.

The governor is angry:

The bill [that he vetoed] would set standards for how the state would identify low-performing schools that Hogan says rely too little on standardized tests. And it would prevent the state from taking several actions to improve those schools, including converting them to charter schools, bringing in private management, giving the students vouchers to attend private schools or putting the schools into a special statewide “recovery” school district.

Hogan and members of the state school board argue that the bill would tie their hands as they try to rescue low-performing schools.

Let it be stipulated that neither the governor nor any member of the state school board has EVER rescued a low-performing school.

Congratulations to the educators and parents and students of Maryland for defeating Governor Hogan’s effort to impose the DeVos agenda on the state’s public schools.

David Hornbeck is a veteran education reformer, old-style, meaning he actually has experience running school districts and states. He was superintendent of the Philadelphia schools, state superintendent of Maryland and Kentucky, and led the implementation of KERA (the Kentucky Education Reform Act).

In this post, Hornbeck writes that he once believed that charter schools were “reform,” but he no longer does.

“As Philadelphia’s Superintendent of Schools, I recommended the approval of more than 30 charter schools because I thought it would improve educational opportunity for our 215,000 students. The last 20 years make it clear I was wrong.

“Those advocating change in Maryland’s charter law through proposed legislation are equally committed to educational improvement. They are equally wrong. New policy should not build on current inequities and flawed assumptions, as the proposed charter law changes would do.”

I admire people who are willing to listen, Watch, learn, and change their minds. Why did Hornbeck change his mind?

He paid attention to evidence. Imagine that!

On average, charter schools don’t get better academic results than public schools.

Charter funding negatively affects public schools, creating opportunities for a few but inequities for the many. He writes: “Opportunity for the 13,000 charter school students in Baltimore City is in part funded by the loss of opportunity for the remaining 70,000 students without a commensurate performance improvement by charter school students.”

In addition, charters may harm the credit ratings of urban districts by creating inefficiencies: As Moody’s reported, “charter schools pose the greatest credit challenge to school districts in economically weak urban areas and may even affect their credit ratings.”

Contrary to the claims of charter advocates, “States with “stronger” charter laws are not doing better: Advocates say we need a “stronger” charter law, noting that Maryland ranks near the bottom. Pennsylvania’s law is ranked much higher, yet its charter growth is contributing significantly to a funding crisis that includes draconian cuts to teachers, nurses, arts, music and counselors in Philadelphia.”

The changes proposed in Maryland will make it harder to get and keep the best teachers:

“The proposed “stronger” law undermines collective bargaining that protects teachers from politics and favoritism and has been crucial to improvement in compensation and benefits. It would create a two-tiered system in which charter teachers would have to organize and bargain separately with each charter opting out of the larger system’s contract. Unionization is not the problem. There are no unions in many of the nation’s worst educational performing states. All schools, charter or traditional, must pay competitive salaries and benefits to attract experienced, skilled teachers who can succeed with all children.”

Charters do not serve the children with the greatest needs.

If Maryland passes the proposed charter law, it will make the education system incoherent and inefficient.

This is not reform.

Hornbeck describes what real reform is. His short list does not include charters.

No big surprise here: Most students in Maryland did not pass the PARCC tests.

A majority of Maryland’s students failed to meet academic benchmarks on state standardized tests linked to the Common Core this year, a disappointing result for educators and state officials who had hoped to see major upticks as teachers and students become familiar with the exams.

New data released this week showed that many grade levels saw overall passing rates of about 40 percent in the second year of testing using PARCC exams, which are intended to measure readiness for college and careers. Maryland students in grades three through eight showed gains in math, but English scores remained flat.

“We’re sure not seeing a heck of a rise on these results,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., a member of the Maryland State Board of Education and president emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “Forty percent is nowhere near good enough, and the gains, where there are some, are small.”

State data showed that most grade levels saw improvement in math, with proficiency inching up nearly three points in seventh grade and almost eight points in third grade. Third-graders did best, with 44 percent meeting or exceeding expectations, and eighth-graders lagged, with just 22 percent meeting or exceeding expectations. There was little change in English scores in third through eighth grades, with 37 to 40 percent of students reaching performance targets.

As I have pointed out many times, both of the federally-funded Common Core tests (PARCC and SBAC) set their passing marks so high that most students were expected to fall short of “proficient.” Long ago, the test developers decided that NAEP proficient was the right benchmark, even though most students consistently fail to reach NAEP proficient. Only in Massachusetts have half the students in the state reached that goal.

Put another way, the Common Core tests were designed to fail most students. That allegedly would inspire them to try harder and every year they would do better and better until everyone reached NAEP proficient.

That was the theory. But it remains to be seen whether the majority who allegedly “fail” will be incentivized to try harder or will give up.

Meanwhile, only seven states and D.C. still administer the PARCC exam, which is developed by Pearson. Originally there were 24. Most have abandoned PARCC.