An EDlection Showdown In Maryland: Could A ‘Blue Wave’ Unseat America’s Second-Most Popular Governor — And Reshape The State’s Education Priorities?
An EDlection Showdown in Maryland: Could a ‘Blue Wave’ Unseat America’s Second-Most Popular Governor — and Reshape the State’s Education Priorities?
EDlection 2018: From coast to coast, is featuring a new education-focused campaign every week. Explore all of our recent profiles, previews, and reactions at The74Million.org/Election (and stay tuned for our live blog on Election Night, Nov. 6).
Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland sometimes finds himself at odds with the majority Democratic state when it comes to education. He did not endorse the state’s ESSA plan, and the legislature overrode his vetoes on school construction and teacher discipline bills. Additionally, his decision to change the start date of the school year caused controversy among many constituents.
However, despite these clashes, the people of Maryland are far from being in conflict with him. In fact, Hogan is currently the second-most popular governor in the United States, boasting a 68 percent approval rating. This is remarkable considering that Maryland is a blue state where 60 percent of voters supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, and Democrats have maintained control of the legislature since 1992.
The question that arises this November is whether Ben Jealous, the Democratic challenger and former head of the NAACP, can persuade voters to turn away from their popular governor. Both Hogan and Jealous have aligned their education platforms with their respective parties in a manner that is mostly in line with traditional party stances. Hogan supports voucher programs and strict academic accountability measures, whereas Jealous advocates for universal pre-K, free access to community college, and increased funding for education.
David Steiner, executive director of the Institute for Education Policy at Johns Hopkins University and a Hogan appointee to the Maryland State Board of Education, believes that the education debate in Maryland mirrors similar debates in other parts of the country. Democrats tend to focus on funding, while Republicans prioritize choice and keeping funding within certain limits.
The governor’s influence on education will be even more pronounced in the next term, according to Ethan Hutt, assistant professor at the University of Maryland’s College of Education. The winner of this election will be responsible for rallying support for a new education report commissioned by the legislature, which will propose significant changes to school funding and provide blueprints for improving education in the state.
Known as the Kirwan report, named after William Kirwan, the commission’s chair and chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland, it is expected to be completed later this year. The report will embrace a centrist approach to educational reform, drawing inspiration from global best practices in areas such as teacher preparation, testing, college, and career readiness. Some members of the commission see this as an opportunity to position Maryland as a national leader in education.
Jealous’s campaign emphasizes Maryland’s standing in the national education landscape. He argues that under Hogan’s leadership, the state has dropped from first to sixth place in national rankings. These rankings, provided by Education Week, take into consideration factors like school finance, academic performance, and access to education. However, some, including Steiner, argue that Maryland has never truly been at the forefront, as evidenced by its inconsistent and underwhelming performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Recently, Baltimore students scored near the bottom nationally in math and reading.
While Jealous has criticized Hogan for not distancing himself enough from the National Rifle Association in the wake of recent school shootings, he has stated that his strategy for the upcoming election is not necessarily to change the minds of Hogan supporters. Instead, he intends to focus on Democrats, independents, and individuals who did not participate in the last election.
Notable Democrats like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris have all voiced their support for Jealous. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey referred to him as "one of the most compelling voices of the X Generation," according to the Washington Post. Additionally, Jealous has garnered the endorsement of the Maryland State Education Association, the teachers union in the state.
In his role as the president of the NAACP, Jealous became involved in a lawsuit against school closures and the co-location of charter and public schools with the New York City teachers union in 2011. However, he resigned from his position in 2013, several years before the NAACP issued a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools. Although he has expressed some support for charter schools, they are not included in his education platform. Jealous is firmly against school vouchers.
In a tweet directed at Larry Hogan, Jealous criticized the current state of affairs under Hogan’s leadership, including falling school rankings, rising crime rates, and increasing drug overdoses. He also criticized the spending of millions of dollars on private school vouchers and unsuccessful anti-drug strategies, which he believed were influenced by the Koch brothers.
Jealous’s education platform focuses on increasing teacher salaries by 29%, implementing universal pre-K, providing free community college and work study programs to pay for bachelor’s degrees, and establishing community schools that offer services like mentoring, health clinics, and counseling. He plans to fund education by taxing marijuana and utilizing savings resulting from a decrease in the prison population. If elected, Jealous would make history as Maryland’s first black governor.
On the other hand, Larry Hogan, a moderate Republican, has faced challenges due to his differing views from the predominantly Democratic state. His disagreement with education policies has caused some controversy. In anticipation of compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Protect Our Schools Act was passed in 2017, which limits the significance of academic performance in accountability measures and excludes choices as solutions for improving failing schools. Hogan opposed these limitations and vetoed the bill, but his veto was overridden by the legislature. Consequently, he declined to endorse the state’s ESSA plan. Additionally, Hogan’s veto of a bill that reduced his authority in approving school construction and another bill that relaxed teacher disciplinary policies were both overridden.
Hogan’s decision to change the start date of the school year to after Labor Day was controversial, with some perceiving it as prioritizing the interests of the tourism industry and businesses over those of students and families. Despite these disagreements, Hogan has taken a more moderate approach compared to many other Republicans. He supported a program that allows low-income students in Maryland to attend community college for free and has expressed interest in expanding it to cover four-year degrees. Hogan also approved a bill directing $30 million towards heating and cooling in schools after students in Baltimore experienced a lack of heat during winter. He highlights that more money has been spent on education during his tenure, although it is worth noting that this is largely determined by an existing funding formula.
Jealous did not provide a comment when requested, while Hogan declined to be interviewed for this story. In conclusion, the race for governor in Maryland features contrasting visions for education and leadership.