What Md.’s gubernatorial candidates debated re: schools

The two big-party gubernatorial candidates in Maryand—Anthony Brown, Democrat, and Larry Hogan, Republican—debated a few of Maryland’s issues on Oct 7. The debate was televised by WJZ (CBS affiliate) and moderated by Vic Carter of WJZ and Andy Green, editorial page editor for the Baltimore Sun.

The two candidates made very few statements about education or schools, but here are the excerpts from their debate that dealt with education:

Mr Brown

Look, Maryland’s a great state, and together we’ve accomplished a great deal in the last several years. We’ve built the best-in-the-nation public schools. We lead the nation in college affordability. …

… Let’s complete the picture. We were faced with a 40-percent increase in college tuition, overcrowded classrooms … and Marylanders did their part to protect our schools, save neighborhoods and the environment, all so that we could ensure that we have a vibrant economy and communities to attract families and business to Maryland. There will be no new taxes.

Mr Hogan

I think we’ve done a good job in spending money for education. In fact, it started with the Ehrlich administration and continued with this administration. We’ve doubled spending on education here in Maryland. But I would say the results have been mixed at best. First of all, we have some of the best schools in the country here in Maryland. But unfortunately, we’ve got some of the lowest-performing schools in the country as well. And the gap between the best schools and the worst schools is 50th in the nation. And the gap between white students and minority students is the largest in the nation. Both of those gaps have gotten wider over the last eight years.

So, we need to invest money, but we’ve also got to look at other ways to improve education. I want to push more dollars down to the local level, rather than having them eaten up in administrative costs. Put them into the classrooms. I want to make more decisions at the local level, with parents, students, and teachers. We’re going to push the pause button on Common Core, which has been a complete disaster at this point. Our recent test scores are some of the worst in recent memory. I want to push for charter schools. We’re 50th in the nation in charter schools right now.

And I believe every single child in Maryland deserves a quality education, and we’ve got to work hard to try to make sure that that happens.

Mr Brown

I believe that every child in Maryland deserves access to a world-class education, and we’ve made tremendous progress in doing that. I can take issue with your facts: We’re closing the achievement gap on income faster than any state in the nation, and we’re making very good progress on eliminating the achievement gap along racial and ethnic lines.

It’s because of, and I think this is what your question, Andy, goes to, the resources we’re willing to invest in our schools. Look, in my vision for a world-class education, that starts with investments in pre-K education. I think that every Maryland 4-year-old should have access to quality pre-K. If you ask, whether you ask a university president or kindergarten teacher, How do we best prepare kids for college readiness or the workforce, they all start with expanding pre-K.

Mr Hogan opposes the expansion of pre-K. He says we can’t afford it; I say we can’t afford not to do it.

I also support investments in school construction. We’re not going to raise taxes to do it, and we won’t jeopardize our AAA bond rating. But we have the ability, with our AAA bond rating in Maryland, to make investments in schools, and we have. I supported the $1.1 billion investment in Baltimore City. I look forward to working with Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and every county executive that wants to look for opportunities to deliver modern, technology-ready classrooms.

But Mr Hogan opposes that as well. In fact, in his most recent so-called savings plan, he calls for a $450 million cut to school construction. That would set us back years as we move children out of temporary learning trailers into technology-ready classrooms so they can receive the instruction that prepares them for college or the workforce. Your $450 million school construction cut would take Maryland back to a place that they do not want to go.

Update 10/9: [Jenna Johnson in the Washington Post did a deep fact-checking on where the $450 million comes from, including press releases and statements from both campaigns. Her excellent report can be found here.]

Update 10/10: [This $450 million is getting considerable play in the press. Here’s another article about it, this one in the Hagerstown Herald & Mail. Maryland’s House speaker is going to fill people in on Mr Hogan’s plans for school construction funding, it would appear. The House minority leader characterized the speaker’s comments as “outrageous lies.”]

Mr Hogan

Well, first of all, there he goes again, confusing the facts. I support pre-K, number one. He runs commercials saying that I don’t support pre-K and that I’m going to take $300 million out of the pockets of kids and I’m going to give it to rich corporations. That’s obviously not true. I’m a big proponent of pre-K.

We currently expanded pre-K to people that make 300 percent of the poverty level—so, $73,000 per year. What the lieutenant governor’s talking about is expanding it to pay for everybody in the entire state, but he doesn’t really have a plan about how to accomplish that. And he’s not talking about how to pay for it. And he’s actually not talking about making this happen until 2022.

So basically, it’s a campaign promise that he’s trying to mislead voters into thinking he’s going to make happen, and I’m not, when in fact, we both support the concept and the idea of pre-K. And the fact of the matter is, politicians make phony promises all the time that they can’t deliver. I’m just a small businessman. I don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver. So when I said, “I’m not sure how we’re going to afford it at this point, when we’ve got a $405 million shortfall, we’ve got a structural deficit.” You know, we’ve increased spending during your administration by $10 billion, and now you’re proposing $7 billion in new spending.

Mr Hogan, on unaccompanied minors

We’re a beacon of hope and freedom, and I understand why we want to be welcoming to immigrants who want to come to the United States. However, we’re also a nation of laws. I don’t blame people who want to come to the United States, who want to break the rules. I understand they want a better life for themselves and their children.

Who I blame is the president of the United States and the Congress, both Republicans and Democrats in Washington, for failing to come up with any kind of comprehensive immigration policy or strategy, and for allowing it to happen.

Mr Brown

This is a land of immigrants. Some of our families arrived six decades ago, like mine, some six weeks ago, and some, centuries ago. But each of us has, or should be afforded the opportunity to make a contribution to the greatness that is our nation. There is failed immigration policy, or inability to enact immigration reform in Congress. That is really the source of the problem. … We’re not going to fix that in Maryland, but the question is, What does the governor do to be able to manage undocumented immigrants who are in Maryland? And I think when we see children stranded at the border and the humanitarian crisis, that’s exhibit A of the failed policy.

So how do we manage that? And I’ve laid out a framework for managing that. First and foremost, I think, as people and as a nation, we have an obligation to protect children. We don’t leave children stranded at the borders, so we’ll protect them. We’ll reunite them with their families, because children do better when they’re with their families. When it’s safe to do so, we’ll return them to their country of origin. And temporarily, when we can’t do that, we’ll have them in our foster care system or social service system, provided the federal government reimburses Maryland for the entire cost. We’ve got a vibrant foster care system in Maryland. We can accommodate this small group of children. Let’s protect them. Let’s return them. Let’s ensure that the federal government pays the full freight.

Mr Hogan

For the most part, we agree on that. The issue really is, obviously, it’s a humanitarian crisis. And it’s a tremendous problem for the nation to have all these undocumented children crossing the border in waves. My first concern is the health and the safety of these children. And we do have to look at that. I wanted to make sure that as soon as they came across the border, we took care of their immediate needs: that they were fed, that they were clothed, that they were housed, and we took care of any medical attention.

But I don’t think it made a lot of sense for Maryland to try to bring more of them to Maryland. We’ve taken 10 times more per capita than any other state. And I just don’t think it’s fair to the taxpayers in Maryland—or to the children, really—to be bused thousands of miles away from their point of origin to be put into Maryland. It didn’t make sense to me, so we do have a little bit of a disagreement there. We do want to take care of the kids, but I think this administration’s been too aggressive in trying to go after this.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.