Tag Archives: schools

Public employee unions as Montgomery County kingmakers

Arnold Kling reviews recent rounds of political hardball in Montgomery County, including the ouster of officials who had been at odds with the teachers’ and other unions. As for the vaunted quality of public services, it’s not all it might be:

An increasing share of that budget is going to pensions and non-teaching staff who are union members. Actual classroom teachers are badly over-worked.

Because spending per student is by far the highest in the state, the WaPo constantly refers to Montgomery County as a high quality school system. However, the average outcomes in the County schools are mediocre. Students from the wealthiest parts of the County (three high schools in particular) produce good test scores, and the rest do not. Other school districts in Maryland get similar outcomes with students of similar backgrounds while spending much less money per student.

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Let’s do better in 2017: Maryland rated 46th freest state of 50

Maryland remains at its fourth-from-worst position of #46 in this new report ranking freedom in the 50 states by the Cato Institute, with which I’m affiliated. “Occupational freedom is extremely low, for health professions and for others….Educational freedom is among the lowest in the country. Homeschools and private schools are tightly regulated, the latter more so (mandatory state approval and teacher licensing).” While scoring average on taxes and criminal justice, our state, long known as the Free State, is worse than average on business subsidies, land-use control, and firearms unfreedom. We are 49th (next to worst!) on regulation, occupational, and land use freedom and least free of all 50 on education.

Adjacent states are ahead of us: Virginia at # 21, Pennsylvania #26, Delaware # 31, and West Virginia at # 39.

Most of these problems cannot be fixed without electing a better legislature in Annapolis.

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ACLU blasts Hogan education plan

I wish we had a civil liberties group in Maryland that focused on civil liberties, rather than going to bat for the legislative agenda of the teachers’ union.

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In miniature, November 13

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Weaker oversight for school construction?

Good for Comptroller Peter Franchot: if the school systems are trying to wriggle out of budget oversight, it’s time to make that oversight stronger, not weaker. Note that it was Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Theresa Alban, “who also serves as president of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland,” who sent the letter to Mike Miller and Mike Busch asking them to limit the power of the Board of Public Works to check and balance the demands of the school construction lobby. More: Frederick News-Post.

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Why cook for your kids when the state will do it?

To reduce stigma, or so it’s said, Maryland will serve free school breakfast, lunch, and summer meals to more kids whether they’re poor or not [Rebecca Lessner/Maryland Reporter, earlier] Gov. Hogan has signed the Hunger Free Schools Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Kensington) that seemed to enjoy near-universal support in Annapolis; leveraging more federal money may have had something to do with that. Pushing for the measure was an outfit called Maryland Hunger Solutions.

I can’t go along with blogger Tom Coale of HoCo Rising, who seems to see it as a positive indicator for a county to have moved more of its less affluent families away from home meals with family and into government feeding options. Under his analysis, counties like Howard and Frederick with low breakfast participation rates come off as laggards, drawing attention away from the possibility that they should actually be counted as successes: their less affluent families, for what may turn out to be admirable reasons, succeed better at feeding their kids at home.

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How Maintenance of Effort might backfire on its advocates

The Frederick News-Post this week ran my letter to the editor on the interaction between our county education budget and the state’s crazy, spending-ratchet Maintenance of Effort law. It begins:

County Executive Jan Gardner has proposed a schools budget more than $4 million above maintenance of effort levels. The key thing to remember about Maryland’s crazy MOE law is this: Once a county spends more than MOE in one year, it’s permanently raised the base. It’s not supposed to go back to spending less the next year even if its priorities change or it decides the added spending didn’t achieve the intended result. That means that more likely than not, the council is debating a permanent hike of more than $4 million that, ratchet-like, will be hard to reconsider later….

I go on to discuss the (far from robust) provision by which counties can ask for waivers, and raise a question I’m not sure the architects of the MOE (who wanted to insulate school spending from the democratic process) considered: what happens when the voting public realizes that spending increases operate as a permanent entitlement rather than an experiment with a plausible path of retreat? It could be, at least for counties with a vigorous pro-taxpayer streak in their electorate, that the equilibrium will be for voters to support less school spending than they would have been willing to try otherwise.

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In miniature, December 21

  • Purple Line backers picked a color name similar to Metro lines, clever move but oh so misleading [David Lublin, The Seventh State, earlier]
  • Frederick County mom Cindy Rose goes to court seeking right to opt kids out of state-mandated assessment tests [Frederick News Post]
  • Court of Appeals will decide whether to construe insurance policies against drafter [Ron Miller]
  • Video caught confrontation between Prince George’s cop and student, but did it matter in the end? [Scott Greenfield]
  • Sen. Jamie Raskin working on how to remove language from Maryland constitution purportedly barring religious unbelievers from public office [John Hockenberry “The Takeaway,” earlier]
  • State’s “road system again ranked low, but highway officials strongly counter ratings” [Meg Tully, Maryland Reporter]

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In miniature, December 6

  • How did the limping if not moribund Maryland Republican Party manage to pull off last month’s stunning political triumph? A big part of the reason is that it had as chairman Diana Waterman, who is so adroit at letting others shine that it might not be apparent at first how central her role was in making it all happen [Erin Cox, Baltimore Sun on MD-GOP convention, at which Waterman won unanimous re-election]
  • Montgomery County’s religious-holidays problem is a public-schooling problem [Neal McCluskey, Reason]
  • “So Many Problems at the Baltimore Police Department” [Ed Krayewski, Radley Balko]
  • Molly McGrath Tierney at TEDxBaltimore 2014 on foster care in the city [video]
  • A happier Baltimore story: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s efforts to welcome immigrants have borne fruit [Scott Beyer]
  • Appeals court ruling holds public policy to supersede union contracts [Richard J. Douglas, Maryland Reporter]

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In miniature, August 3

  • Peroutka not about “reforming the existing regime” [Warren Throckmorton] As predicted, press has field day with nomination [Van Smith/City Paper, and thanks for quote] More: Mark Newgent at Red Maryland, whose August poll, open until Aug. 6, has many questions on the Anne Arundel nominee;
  • Health secretary Sharfstein departing O’Malley administration to join faculty of Johns Hopkins’ hyper-interventionist School of Public Health, and we may hope he’s just as successful in promoting Bloombergian nanny state initiatives as he was in setting up the state’s ObamaCare exchange;
  • Unlike most states, Maryland has benefited from law providing SWAT transparency, but now legislature is allowing it to sunset [Radley Balko, earlier]
  • Don’t just blame neglect for stagnation in White Oak, other parts of eastern MoCo; county planners imposed a 20-year development moratorium [Dan Reed, Greater Greater Washington]
  • “Small firms give Maryland C- for business friendliness” [Maryland Reporter, Free State Foundation]
  • The experiment begins: Annapolis tells schools to stop suspending students for cursing out or disobeying teachers; most drastic levels of discipline still okay if firearm inadvertently left in locked trunk by teen headed to after-school shooting event [Washington Post]

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