By Rebecca Lessner
The Maryland legislature’s Black Caucus has sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan protesting cuts to education in his budget, saying they hurt progress being made in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County schools.
“We look forward to sitting down with the governor and helping to move this budget in a direction that we hope will benefit our students.” said Baltimore Sen. Catherine Pugh, Senate chair of the Black Caucus as well as the majority leader.
The caucus said it what approaching the governor in a spirit of bipartisanship since both parties can rally around support for local schools.
“He’s got to know that this is not where you start bipartisanship,” said Prince George’s County Delegation Chair Jay Walker. “If you look at bipartisan across the board, Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, or whatever, they’re all going to agree that we need to fund education.”
Walker hopes that once Hogan sits down with the Caucus, they will help him understand “the reality of these cuts”.
Here’s audio of Walker’s remarks.
The Governor’s Press Office released a statement in response to the caucus, saying:
“Ensuring that all our students have the opportunity to receive the very best education possible, regardless of where they live, will always be a top priority for Governor Hogan. The proposed FY 2016 budget provides more resources per student in Baltimore City than any other place in our state and delivers Prince George’s County an increase of $35 million in local aid.”
Baltimore City gets $11,892 per student, $4,700 more than the state average; Prince George’s County gets $9,328 per student, $2,100 more than the state average.
Last Thursday, Hogan proclaimed record spending on education, but while the dollars are slightly higher, so are enrollments.
Walker believes that even with a slight increase in aid, his county will lose 600 teachers.
Maryland was the number one state in education five years in a row, according to Education Weeks’ Quality Count annual report card, but this year it dropped to number three. The caucus feels the cuts in expected aid will push Maryland back more.
They want to work with Hogan, they say
“We want to work with this governor but at the same time, we cannot sustain cuts like this in Baltimore City and Prince Georges county. We are talking about twelve hundred teachers. We have to start from a point that makes sense for all of us,” said Pugh.
Caucus House Chair Barbara Robinson worried about the effect they cuts will have on small business. Cuts in education will trickle-down, with fewer teachers there will be fewer people being trained effectively to take over the small businesses.
“We have more businesses coming to Baltimore because of technology. Because they’re looking for a trained workforce, well if you don’t have teachers in the classroom, how can you have a trained workforce?” said Robinson.
“That’s why our long-term goal is to educate our children. This is such a fundamental destruction of the things we find important, it’s shameful, and we’re not going to let it happen,” said Baltimore City Delegation Chair Curt Anderson.
On the Senate rostrum Thursday, Maryland Senate President Mike Miller echoed the Black Caucus’s call for bipartisanship, He said even though the governor creates an outline of spending, the Senate and House hold power over the budget.
“The governor proposes, the legislature disposes,” Miller said, “This budget is a starting point…We’re going to have to do this is with smiles on our face and we’re going to disagree in an agreeable fashion.”
“It will be give and take,” Miller said. He reminded the Senate of Gov. O’Malley’s reductions in mandated school aid versus Hogans’ proposed $310 million for school construction — $290 million plus $20 million for Baltimore City schools.
“We’re all about education, education, education, education,” Miller said, pounding the desk. “Fund education at levels it needs to be funded.”
Miller told the Senate he thought Gov. Hogan “did a good job” of compressing two years of budget balancing into one year. Miller doesn’t see that as ideal, but he believes that Hogan is trying to rip the Band-aid off with “one fell cut.”