ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday vowed to veto an education bill he said could cost the state hundreds of millions in federal funding and all but eliminate the ability to hold low-performing schools accountable.
The veto threat — the third such promise made by Hogan — comes as the Senate is expected to debate the “Protect our Schools Act.” Supporters, including bill sponsor Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, said the bill is a bipartisan effort meant to ensure statewide school performance. But Hogan said the bill was written by the members of the state’s largest teacher’s union.
“This misguided and horrible bill was drafted by political operatives of the teacher’s union who have been desperately lobbying members of the General Assembly for months,” Hogan said. “It is designed to hide the failures of particular schools, teachers and administrators who have been operating these failing schools for years all at the expense of the children who are trapped in those failing schools.”
Hogan said measuring sticks in the bill don’t go far enough and cited a legislative analysis that noted the some parts of the bill could cost the state $248 million in education funding.
Hogan said his staff had been working to oppose the bill before it passes out of the legislature. The House of Delegates passed it two weeks ago by a 91-46 vote — a veto-proof margin. The Senate is set to take up the bill Monday night with two weeks to go before the end of 90-day legislative session.
“If this legislation is adopted, Maryland would have the weakest education accountability system in the United States of America,” he said. “If this reckless bill reaches my desk, it will be vetoed.”
Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, states are required to develop a plan for identifying and improving failing schools.
Luedtke’s bill attempts to establish a framework for the plan. It also prevents the state school board from privatizing schools or placing them into a separate state school district with other under-performing schools.
Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, fired back at Hogan, saying the bill would provide more accountability that goes beyond testing.
“It’s ridiculous that Governor Hogan is standing against what overwhelming majorities of Marylanders want simply because partisan and corporate interests told him to do so,” Weller said in a statement. “We will now ask legislators in the General Assembly to pass the legislation and be prepared to override this misguided veto.”
Such a veto-override vote could come before the end of the current legislative session.
‘Meets letter of law’
Luedtke stood in the back of the governor’s reception room and spoke to reporters moments after Hogan made his comments, calling them “political rhetoric.”
“We all want betters schools,” Luedtke said. “We all want to make sure kids have access to a better education every single day but there are other options than just privatizing schools.”
Luedtke said his bill sets a standard beyond testing for judging schools including school safety and access to good teachers and access to good teachers and access to advanced placement classes. But he also acknowledged that it prevents the Maryland State Board of Education from “unilaterally privatizing our schools.”
“Local boards can still do those things with community input but the state can’t unilaterally force your school to privatize,” Luedtke said, adding that the state board does not currently have the power to privatize a school on its own but that experts interpret the federal law in a way that could make that a possibility.
As for losing federal aid under his bill, Luedtke said amendments made as it moved through the House of Delegates have addressed those concerns.
“The bill meets the letter of (the federal law),” Luedtke said. “We’re confident the bill doesn’t, in any way, violate ESSA.”