State Roundup, June 30, 2014

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TEACHER EVALUATIONS: This past school year, Maryland’s 60,000 teachers were evaluated for the first time according to a formula that required half of their final rating to be based on how much their students learned, Liz Bowie reports in the Sun. Policymakers and proponents of the new evaluation systems hope that eventually they can be used to get rid of poorly performing teachers and reward the best with higher pay. But teachers unions contend that further emphasis on test scores narrows the focus of learning and that effectiveness in the classroom is more complex than a score.

  • Maryland education officials and a diverse group of organizations representing educators announced a unique partnership Friday to develop an important part of teacher evaluations, according to an AP story in the Capital. The agreement, which focuses on making teachers and principals more effective, comes as states struggle to develop new teacher evaluation systems and work to implement student achievement into the reviews.

MoCo GRADE INFLATION: Montgomery County’s failure rate for the June final exam in Algebra 1 was so steep — 82% for high school students — that district officials say they decided to add 15 percentage points to all test grades, recalculate scores and reprint thousands of report cards, Donna St. George reports in the Post.

GANSLER SUPPORTS BROWN: Days after Maryland’s bitter Democratic primary ended, Attorney General Doug Gansler said Friday that he has no hesitation about supporting Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, his former rival and now the party’s nominee for governor. Gansler said the two plan to meet soon to discuss how he can provide that support. Jenna Johnson and John Wagner report in the Post.

BROWN WON OR GANSLER LOST? Did Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown run such a flawless Rose Garden campaign that his victory in Maryland’s June 24 Democratic gubernatorial primary was inevitable? Or did his chief rival, Attorney General Doug Gansler, lose the election with an ineffective campaign that badly missed the mark? Columnist Barry Rascovar analyzes the race in

PRIMARY SURPRISES: There were more than a few surprises after the votes were counted, says Barry Rascovar in a new column for

SIGNS COMING DOWN: Now that the primary election is over, candidates have until Tuesday to remove campaign signs, at least in Anne Arundel County, says the Capital.

HOW SCHUH WON: A close look at precinct numbers by Jack Lambert and Rema Rahman of the Capital Gazette shows two clear reasons for Del. Steve Schuh’s resounding victory for Anne Arundel County executive. He took 18 of 20 key precincts with some of the heaviest Republican registration, and Neuman was unable to sufficiently challenge him in the precincts where he has a record of support among voters. Where the map was the most red, including in his own backyard, Schuh did the best Tuesday.

SCHUH VS. JOHNSON: Now that Republicans have chosen their candidate in November’s race for Anne Arundel County executive, Democrat George Johnson IV says he’s eager to begin the campaign, Pam Wood reports in the Sun. “It’s time to roll our sleeves up,” said Johnson, who faces Republican Steve Schuh in the Nov. 4 election. Schuh defeated incumbent Executive Laura Neuman in last week’s primary.

FATHER-DAUGHTER TEAM: Meagan Simonaire, daughter of Sen. Bryan Simonaire,  handily won the Republican primary for delegate in two-member District 31B, trailing only House Minority Leader Nic Kipke. If she wins the general in this heavily Republican district, the 23-year-old cosmetologist would likely be the youngest member of the House of Delegates, and part of the only father-daughter team in the legislature. Zoe Read interviewed both of them for the Capital.

VITALE, MCCONKEY SPAT: Severna Park Del. Cathy Vitale contacted the police on Thursday night and said that after Del. Tony McConkey refused to shake her hand at a Republican “Unity” event, he called her names and advanced toward her in an aggressive manner, Alex Jackson reports in the Capital. McConkey denied the incident took place as Vitale described it, and on Friday called her a “liar.”

RISING STARS SCHUH, PANTALIDES: Chuck Todd, chief White House correspondent for NBC News and host of The Daily Rundown on MSNBC, named Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides and Del. Steve Schuh as two faces to watch among Maryland Republicans, Jack Lambert reports in the Capital.

HIGH STATE SALARIES: The coaches for University of Maryland, College Park’s football and men’s and women’s basketball teams were the state’s three highest-paid public employees last year, continuing a long-standing trend, Carrie Wells reports in the Sun. Bucking the notion of low-paid college professors, of the top 200 most highly compensated state employees in 2013, the vast majority are professors, administrators and coaches at UM, as well as doctors and professors at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

  • Here’s’s fourth annual report using the same state salary database on state employees making over $100,000. That May 13 report by Margaret Sessa-Hawkins found the number of state employees making over $100,000 jumped dramatically to 6,847 in 2013 due to an across-the-board 2% cost-of-living raise,’s fourth annual analysis of state salaries found. Numerically, this represented a 1,184 increase from 2012, a 20% rise in the number of state and university employees making six figures.

HOGAN REMOVES ZACHING PHOTO: Republican Larry Hogan’s campaign for governor quietly removed from an online ad a controversial photo of his gubernatorial opponent Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown “Zaching” for the camera, write Yvonne Wenger and Erin Cox in the Sun. Hogan’s campaign acknowledged Saturday that it had removed a photo of Brown, a Democrat, and his running mate Howard County Executive Ken Ulman flexing their biceps in a picture that was intended to show solidarity with a young Howard County man, Zach Lederer, who recently lost his long battle to cancer.

REPUBLICAN DIVISIONS: Primary races settled this week reflect the underlying divide in the Maryland’s minority party, pitting Republicans who stand on conservative principle against those who are willing to be more pragmatic as the underdogs in a blue state, Erin Cox writes in the Sun. In some cases the ideologues triumphed; in others the moderates squeaked out a victory. It’s a push-and-pull that echoes fights dogging the Republican Party nationally.

RESTRICTING CELLPHONE SEARCHES: State Sen. Christopher Shank described Wednesday’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling requiring police to obtain a warrant before searching the cellphone of someone they have arrested as a stunning victory for liberty and freedom,  Kaustuv Basu reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Shank, R- Washington County, has been at the forefront in introducing legislation in the Maryland General Assembly restricting how state and local law enforcement agencies access cellphone data or track cellphone locations.

COMMON CORE DEFENDED: The editorial board of the Sun writes in defense of Common Core. Higher standards will push Maryland schools to the next level; the state needs to do whatever it takes to help local districts make the transition as seamless as possible

KIRWAN LOOKS BACK: William Kirwan writes in an op-ed in the Sun,  “As I look back over my 12 years as chancellor of the University System of Maryland, one of the developments in which I take the most pride has been the USM’s genuine partnership with state leaders in Annapolis.”

BWI FLIGHTS TO CARIBBEAN: With beach balls, snorkels and other vacation-themed decorations festooning a section of BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, top Southwest Airlines executives will split off in pairs to board three flights to the Caribbean, Kevin Rector writes in the Sun. The sendoff, planned for Tuesday. will mark the official entry of the largest domestic carrier in the United States into the international market. BWI officials also hope it signals the start of the airport’s ascendance as a major hub for domestic travelers looking to hop abroad.

LIKING IKE: Almost 55% of Montgomery Democrats decided Tuesday that they didn’t like Ike. County Executive Ike Leggett defeated former executive Doug Duncan and council member Phil Andrews handily, but his challengers held him to 45.6% of the vote, writes Bill Turque in the Post. Not exactly a resounding mandate for a third term. But Leggett said Friday that given the austerity measures that he and the County Council imposed during the recession — combined with the caliber of his competition — 45% was fine.

CALIF. STYLE PRIMARY SUGGESTED: Reflecting on the anemic turnout both in Montgomery County and statewide in this week’s primary, County Councilmember Phil Andrews Thursday suggested a move to a so-called open primary system – such as the one currently in place in California – as a way to boost participation among the voting public.

DEMOCRACY BIG LOSER: The biggest loser in Tuesday’s primary was democracy, writes Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland, analyzing low turnout in a number of hotly contested races.

RED MARYLAND POLL: The folks a Red Maryland freely admit that their polls are not scientific in nature, have results that may or may not be related to reality, and that ultimately the winner of every Red Maryland Poll is Red Maryland. But yet, their final poll was an accurate predictor of a number of results in the Republican primary.

EARLY VOTING CRITIQUE: Rick Vatz of Red Maryland supplies the conservative critique of early voting.

E-CIGARETTES: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post highlights the banning of e-cigarettes from Frederick Community College classrooms and says that the use of the product isn’t as innocuous as some had thought.

MARYLAND EARNS A C-: Maryland has a long way to go to in creating a friendly climate for small business, according to a story in Red Maryland. A new survey from the online business service provider, Thumbtack, gave Maryland a grade of C- for overall friendliness to small business.


About The Author

Cynthia Prairie

Contributing Editor Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor since 1979, when she began working at The Raleigh Times. Since then, she has worked for The Baltimore News American, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Prince George’s Journal and Baltimore County newspapers in the Patuxent Publishing chain, including overseeing The Jeffersonian when it was a two-day a week business publication. Cynthia has won numerous state awards, including the Maryland State Bar Association’s Gavel Award. Besides compiling and editing the daily State Roundup, she runs her own online newspaper, The Chester Telegraph. If you have additional questions or comments contact Cynthia at:

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