Tag Archives: schools

Should Frederick take Gov. Thomas Johnson’s name off TJ high school?

Peter Samuel’s letter to the editor in the Frederick News-Post hits the right points: it’s not wrong to memorialize founders and framers whose historical notability lies in their works of positive benefit to the nation, and that goes for Frederick’s Gov. Thomas Johnson as well as for figures like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. In a Twitter thread, I get into some of my disagreements with the original front-page FNP piece by reporter Wyatt Massey.

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The rush to spend Kirwan bucks

The majority party in Annapolis is rushing to appropriate a “down payment” of more than $1 billion over two years to implement the lavish spending proposals of the latest blue-ribbon commission on education issues. They’re in no similar rush to implement the Kirwan Commission’s supposed accountability proposals, maybe because those were just pretend anyway, intended as cover for the resource grab. In fact, the same majority party is moving to close down, rather than expand, choice options for parents and families seeking to escape the monopoly system.

The editorialists at the Washington Post have this figured out:

There seems to have been a headlong rush to embrace the commission’s recommendations, with most state politicians swearing fealty to them in last year’s elections. That should give serious pause to Maryland taxpayers. It’s not only that they will be footing the bill with higher taxes or cutbacks in other services. The state’s previous experience also demonstrated the shortcomings, if not outright failure, of increased education expenditures to produce better outcomes.

A previous educational commission, called the Thornton Commission, prompted a historic boost in school spending after 2002. Yet less than 40 percent of Maryland high school graduates can read at a 10th-grade level or pass an Algebra 1 exam. … Rather than simply rubber-stamping a push for massive new school spending, lawmakers should be asking the hard questions of whether Maryland families and children will really be helped.

If only Maryland voters had it figured out too.

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In miniature, January 12

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Frederick County: April Miller best choice for school board vacancy

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner will have the chance to fill a vacancy on the eight-member Frederick County Board of Education with Ken Kerr’s advancement to the House of Delegates. Those interested in serving have been invited to submit their names.

I myself am hoping that Gardner sees fit, despite party differences, to appoint incumbent April Miller to renewed service on the board, should Miller apply. The most obvious reason is at the ballot box: Miller ran fifth of eight for the four posts available, with 35,489 votes (unofficial), fewer than 2,000 votes short of what proved the cutoff. By comparison, Camden Raynor, the 20-year-old (as of September) college student who made a bid for a seat and is said to be a prospect for the vacancy appointment, received 27,701, even with the powerful endorsement of the teachers’ union (“Apple Ballot”).

The strongest reasons to support Miller, however, are substantive. To begin with, she has done a fine job on the board over her two terms, winning praise for constructive engagement even from board members with different priorities. Like colleague Elizabeth Barrett, sometimes seen as her opposite number on the board, Miller is known for thinking for herself and asking uncomfortable questions.

The wider question is whether it is a healthy development, in a county where conservatives make up around half the electorate, to wind up with a school board with no conservatives on it at all. The alternative is one consisting pretty much exclusively of present or past Apple Ballot endorsees. (The union declined to endorse Barrett this time around; she won anyway.) On many issues, absent Miller, there will be no voice raised in dissent, no one to ask certain types of questions or frame objections. In short, there will be a shortage along a very relevant dimension of ideological diversity.

Though nominally non-partisan the school board is all but partisan in practice, so this means asking CE Gardner, a Democrat, to overlook party lines and appoint a known Republican. On the other hand, that’s the sort of thing successful managers do: Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed Democrats to many high posts, part of the centrist appeal that has enabled him to win over Democratic moderates. At a moment where eager Democrats are no doubt applying for the spot, it might take a magnificent gesture on Gardner’s part. But it’s one we could use right about now.

More: Tom Neumark letter to the editor in the FNP.

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Frederick County: Union shouldn’t control school board

Tom Neumark says many of the things I had been thinking about the county school board races. We really shouldn’t want a board entirely consisting of members raised to office through the political clout of the teachers’ union with its Apple Ballot. Yet that’s what we may soon find ourselves with.

Two incumbents were denied the union’s endorsement this year, namely April Miller and Elizabeth Barrett. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these two — though differing from each other in many ways — are both known for thinking for themselves, asking hard questions, and standing up for parents and families not always represented otherwise.

It raises all sorts of conflict of interest for the education unions to place their members, retirees, and close associates in public offices regularly called on to resist union demands. Yet Frederick County is already much of the way down that road. Let’s not proceed further.

Related: two school board hopefuls aren’t FCPS employees, but still have a less direct stake in compensation decisions, per this LTE from Stephanie Covati of Middletown.

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In miniature, August 24

  • So embarrassing for Maryland that Attorney General Brian Frosh signed onto this turkey of a lawsuit challenging Congress’s curtailment of the SALT deduction [Howard Gleckman]
  • I was a guest of Jerry Rogers on WBAL to talk about the showdown between conservative religious adoption agencies and LGBT rights groups and you can listen here (background);
  • Baltimore politicos move to save city from non-threat / non-horror of private water supply [Joe Setyon, Reason]
  • Sen. Ben Cardin, sometimes painted as cautious or even moderate, throws red meat to Left on Brett Kavanaugh nomination [Bruce DePuyt, Maryland Matters]
  • “Among the questions about Mr. Elrich is one he raised himself by pledging to invite the president of the largest county employees union into interview and hiring deliberations ‘for any and all department heads’ in the county. That is an extraordinary promise…also unwise.” [Washington Post editorial]
  • How a machine based on the schools lobby ran politics for years in Montgomery County [Adam Pagnucco, The Seventh State]

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In miniature, June 5

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Baltimore City will pay to send 60 busloads of kids to anti-gun demo

Taxpayers will shell out $100,000 so the city of Baltimore can bus public school students to an anti-gun rally. And that’s only the start of what’s wrong here, I write in a new Cato post. “A protest outing that is ardently enabled or even meticulously organized by the authority figures in your life can be like the ninth-grade English course that ruins Macbeth or Moby Dick for you.” I quote Lynda C. Lambert in the Baltimore Sun: “Part of protesting is finding your own way, for your own reasons….. Government sponsorship is destructive to these ends.”

My parting shot: “As for the separate question of whether compulsory attendance and truancy laws should be enforced against students for skipping school in a favored cause, I’ll see and raise: don’t enforce those laws against anyone period.”  [cross-posted from Overlawyered]

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In miniature, December 9

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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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