JEALOUS: Saving Our Schools

Courtesy of pgcpsfamily.org
Courtesy of pgcpsfamily.org

In Maryland, we pride ourselves on having some of the best public schools in the country. Not too long ago, our schools ranked first in the nation, but sadly we’ve now fallen to sixth. Gov. Hogan has not offered a concrete plan to get back to number one despite his misleading claims of providing record funding.

The results speak for themselves and it’s clear our schools are falling behind under the governor’s leadership. We shouldn’t be surprised, given he started his term proposing cuts to Maryland’s education funding formula, and since then, has proposed cuts to key education programs focused on helping low-income students get an equal chance at a great education.

He has withheld funding passed in bipartisan budgets on several occasions, causing increased class sizes. The governor has cut programs for special education students, lost educator positions and delayed school building maintenance while children in places like Baltimore freeze in their classrooms. His budget proposals have re-directed $1.4 billion away from public school funding and we’ve made little to no progress toward fully funding our schools at the levels the Kirwan Commission has suggested.

It’s fair to say that outside of providing children with a longer summer, the governor has very little to show for his four years in office. Sadly, the governor’s failure of leadership has only been exacerbated by breakdowns at the local level as well.

For example, in Prince George’s County, an audit found nearly five percent of high school graduates in 2016 were actually ineligible to graduate. Even more concerning, the audit also reported at least 24 percent of graduate records had evidence of irregularities in grade changes or potential tampering with student transcripts.

These revelations are alarming, but instead of demanding accountability and transparency, there have either been denials the problem exists, finger pointing, or efforts to downplay the severity of the findings from some local leaders responsible for oversight of these issues. This has left a bad taste in the mouths of many parents like me who send our children to public schools. Quite frankly it all harkens back to the disappointment we felt when we found out the casino and gambling revenue funds that were promised to increase education funding, have actually only been used to replace funding that was moved from the education budget to pay for something else.

Our young people deserve more and as leaders we have to set a better example. What does it say to our youth about their value when no one takes responsibility or demands accountability when the system fails them?

As a civil rights leader, community organizer and businessman, I’ve spent my life bringing people together to get big things done. Those experiences have taught me change begins with leadership that can inspire people to come together.

Being a leader isn’t just about implementing good policies, it’s also about being a moral compass and living the values that make up the best of us. As we watch Donald Trump and Republicans continue eroding our ethical standards, we need leaders at the state level who are willing to stand up and be called to account for their actions, especially when it comes to our youth.

The best thing we can do for the next generation is provide them with the tools they need to shape their own destiny. Here in Maryland, too often we see hard work is not the only determinant of success. Too often, luck plays a determining role in who is able to achieve a good quality of life and who isn’t. Providing our kids with a high-quality education is the first step to making sure their future is determined by their hard work.

We can put our schools back on the right track by fully funding education, ensuring Annapolis keeps its promises to actually increase education spending with casino revenue, pay teachers more and invest resources in our poorest school districts.

We have not seen this kind of leadership from Governor Hogan, and if Democrats want to be successful in defeating him, we must have a nominee with the political courage and clear track record to hold him accountable for his failures in office.

Jealous, former president of the NAACP, is a Maryland gubernatorial candidate.

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