SEABROOK – In a letter to state lawmakers, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced on May 15 that he will not sign The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future bill but will allow it to take effect, citing fiscal planning and accountability measures.
The move comes after the bill, which was created after recommendations made by the Kirwan Commission, passed the Maryland General Assembly on April 5.
It plans to increase the state’s spending on education by $1 billion in two years. Hogan has already contributed a “historic $32 billion” towards education in the past five years during his time as governor.
“Education has been—and continues to be—my top priority,” said Hogan. “However, I have significant reservations about your short-sighted methods for implementing the Kirwan Commission’s final recommendations. Namely, that they will lead to massive increases in expenditures without providing the fiscal safeguards and much-needed accountability our students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve.”
According to Hogan’s office, the governor has invested more in education in five years than any governor in the state’s history.
However, Hogan cited that the bill will force state taxpayers to pay an additional $6,200 over the next five years to cover an $18.7 billion shortfall. The amounts mentioned in his letter were from a part of a study conducted by the state’s Department of Budget and Management office, the governor stated.
“While it is encouraging that the legislature agreed to my proposal for an Inspector General to root out corruption and mismanagement, the bill still falls short of the accountability,” Hogan said. “We need and fails to provide solutions to persistently failing schools.”
Hogan ended his statement by stating he cannot sign the bill without a plan on how the state will pay for the extra funds. His letter was released while he attended a Republican Governors Association conference in Kentucky and was not available for comment.
“We simply cannot repeat the same mistakes that have failed Maryland students, their parents, teachers, and the taxpayers of our state for decades,” Hogan wrote. “In the coming months, I look forward to working with you to develop a fiscally responsible proposal that both increases accountability and improves performance outcomes.”
The bill will designate a significant portion of the funding to specific districts based on each county’s needs. Prince George’s is set to receive $53 million for the 2020 fiscal year, the second-largest amount of any county.
The money will go towards funding specific areas including teachers’ salary, the Concentration of Poverty Grant, students with disabilities assistance, supplemental Pre-K and transition learning programs.
“So it’s not an additional $53 million we can use for anything, we have to use it consistent with what the state law requires us to use it for,” County Council Chair Todd Turner said in a council meeting on April 24. “Now, obviously that helps, and some of this will help us a little bit short-term, but we’re not going to be able to use everything right away because of various issues according to space, teachers and those kinds of things as part of that.”
For Prince George’s County, the funding from the bill was accounted for under County Executive Angela Alsobrooks’ proposed budget before it passed the Maryland General Assembly. That allowed for county funding to be allocated for other projects in the school system.
“In not signing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act, Governor Hogan missed a golden opportunity to join with the General Assembly and local elected officials in growing the convergence of state and local leadership around short and long-term efforts to improve public education in our state,” Board of Education Chair Dr. Alvin Thornton said.
County officials have already begun working with the Kirwan Commission funding following the announcement by Prince George’s County Public Schools for a “salary step restoration proposal” which would increase all eligible employees’ salary by three percent. School officials credit the combination of the bill’s passing and cuts made by PGCPS in making the proposal possible.
“Not a dime is being taken from our students or classrooms,” Interim CEO Goldson said. “I am hopeful about the future of PGCPS and taking this opportunity to lift up the great work of our longtime employees. Together, with community support and advocacy, we can continue building a school system that represents the best of Prince George’s County.”
When the bill was passed in April, only 20 senators, all Republican, voted against the measure. Both Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Adrienne Jones responded to Hogan in a joint letter by stating that there is enough money in the state budget for the bill. They recommend Hogan to meet with the Kirwan Commission in October to give his thoughts on “long-term” solutions.
Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost said she was shocked to hear Hogan did not sign the bill despite support by several Republican lawmakers and the inclusion of an Inspector General to assure funds will be used correctly by school districts. However, with the bill passed, Bost added, schools can be more fully funded than they were before.
“We are ready to work with anyone on the Kirwan Commission or otherwise—including Gov. Hogan—on a fiscally responsible plan to close our multi-billion dollar school funding gap,” Bost said. “But we must remember that every year that goes by without passing a new funding formula is another class of students that moves through underfunded schools.”