State Roundup, January 17, 2017

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TUITION PROGRAM AIDED PRIVATE SCHOOL STUDENTS: More than 500 public school students in Maryland were able to attend private schools this year through a controversial new program that offers state grants of up to $4,400 to help defray tuition costs, state education officials say. But most students helped by the program — more than 1,900 — used the money to remain in private schools where they were already enrolled. The data is likely to be used as ammunition by opponents of the program, who argue it isn’t meeting its stated objective of helping low-income students leave underperforming public schools. Liz Bowie reports the story for the Sun.

SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION: New polling results funded by the state teachers union find broad bipartisan support for increased funding for public education, even if it means “closing corporate loopholes and raising income taxes on the state’s highest earners.” The poll taken late last month by Gonzales Research was part of the same survey that found 74% approval ratings for the job Gov. Larry Hogan is doing, Len Lazarick reports in MarylandReporter.com.

GRADING SCHOOL LUNCHES: A first-time report card on the state of school food in Maryland gives top marks to Howard County and finds that many districts fall short in providing salad bars, restricting sugar in meals and limiting vending machines to healthier items even after school hours, Donna St. George reports in the Post. Most of Maryland’s 24 school systems earned middling grades of C or C-plus in the report, including those in the Washington suburbs of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

FIXING MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROGRAM: Maryland’s General Assembly returned to Annapolis last week with a number of issues hanging over from previous legislative sessions. Among them is fixing a medical marijuana program that remains mired in controversy more than two years after it was created and has yet to get off the ground, WYPR-FM is reporting.

MINI GINSBURG: Not exactly a political story, but it’s just so damn cute, how can you ignore it? Brittany Britto, blogging for the Sun, writes that “It was Superhero Day at 8-year-old Michele Threefoot’s elementary school, but instead of being Super Girl or Wonder Woman, the Columbia third-grader opted to be her real-life hero: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Little did she know, days later the Supreme Court justice would see her picture on the internet and handwrite her a special note.”

INAUGURAL OR NO? Louis Peck of Bethesda Beat reports that as an increasing number of his fellow congressional progressive Democrats say they will boycott Friday’s swearing-in of Donald Trump as the 45th president, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park said Sunday that he plans to attend the ceremony, citing “what I see as my constitutional duty to be there.”

BLACK WOMEN POLITICIANS THRIVE: Yvonne Wenger of the Sun writes that only a dozen black women have served as mayor of a major American city. Baltimore has elected three in a row.  Sheila Dixon, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and now Catherine E. Pugh are products of a system that has developed an unusual concentration of female leaders. The pipeline starts at neighborhood association meetings, community cleanups and PTA events. It can lead to elected positions on the City Council and in the state’s attorney’s office, the comptroller’s office and — for some — the city’s top job.

TRONE CONSIDERS COUNTY EXEC RUN: A year after his surprise entry into the arena of electoral politics — finishing in the runner-up position in a nine-way Democratic primary for Congress in District 8 — Total Wine & More co-owner David Trone said Friday he is “focused very heavily right now” on exploring a race for Montgomery County executive in 2018, Louis Peck is reporting in Bethesda Beat.

PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCING: Montgomery County Council member George Leventhal, who is running for county executive in 2018, is the only candidate so far to announce a campaign using public financing provided by the county. He calls public financing “an experiment in democracy,” writes Doug Tallman in Bethesda Beat.

COLUMBIA AT 50: HEALTH CARE: In Part 7 of his yearlong series celebrating the history of Columbia, Md., at 50, Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes that, Health care was another key element the original Columbia planners focused on in their 1964 work sessions. Unlike the schools, land use, water, sewer and political structure, for which the Rouse Co. planners eventually would turn to government institutions that already existed in Howard County, they would need to look beyond its borders for help.”

MAYOR QUITS GOLF CLUB IN PROTEST: Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin resigned Monday from the Woodmont Country Club in Rockville because of a controversy over whether the mostly Jewish club would allow President Barack Obama to join, Doug Tallman reports in Bethesda Beat. According to his resignation letter, he chose Monday because it is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.