Sunday, February 23, 2020

Consider the Giver

About that Inspector General for Education. I told you we’d get back to that. My first piece on this might be summed up as follows: it all depends on who is giving the gift. After more research and contemplation, I’d have to say my assessment stands.

Mr. Hogan has shown himself on multiple occasions to have a distrust and dislike of teachers and education priorities. He’s never going to live down that “Union thugs” remark. It seems to be a hallmark of a certain political party. Remember John Kasich and his anxiety about what happens in the teachers lounge? Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was determined to strip state teachers of their bargaining rights. And then there’s the president’s own son calling teachers “losers”.

Here in Maryland our Governor doesn’t even think that individual jurisdictions have the competence to set their own school calendars. In short, he doesn’t look at Education in a way that invests and empowers. He thinks it needs managing. Investigating. Inspecting. He’s on the lookout to find wrongdoing.

Ironically, the reason that Mr. Hogan was able to appoint an Inspector General was that it “was allowed by a provision in last year’s Kirwan Commission-inspired bill.” (Danielle E. Gaines, Maryland Matters) Yet he is so opposed to fulfilling the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission itself that he went to work raising dark money to fight it.

The Governor would like us to believe that this is what’s wrong with education in Maryland:

For five years, our administration has been working hard to root out corruption, wrongdoing, and the mismanagement of state tax dollars by local school systems.

To be sure, if any of that is going on we need to address it and correct it. But in my opinion the focus on possible malfeasance is a way that Mr. Hogan is taking a magnifying glass to search for the speck in his neighbor’s eye in order to avoid addressing the enormous plank in his own. What’s wrong with education in the State of Maryland is that it doesn’t address the needs of big chunks of the state population. What needs to be changed has to do with looking at the big picture, investing in all children in every Maryland jurisdiction.

We can’t inspect or deflect our way out of this.

Interestingly enough, the Kirwan report already contains accountability requirements as an integral part of the plan.

During a conversation with reporters after a rally in support of the Kirwan legislation Monday morning, William E. “Brit” Kirwan, the chairman of his namesake commission, called the Inspector General “a nice add-on,” but he said the commission report laid the foundation for much more robust oversight than Hogan’s approach.
“The Inspector General — that’s a nice add-on. But the real accountability is embedded in this bill,” Kirwan said of the 199-page 2020 legislation. “I mean, there’s a very strong system of accountability. And I hope the governor will get on board with it.”
That seems pretty unlikely. Mr. Hogan’s “brand” when it comes to education is distrust, disbelief, and  dismissal. He is willing to give multiple statements to the press to delegitimize teachers and education advocates but he hasn’t so far been willing to come in person to work with the Maryland General Assembly to collaborate in making a plan that will lift up our state’s children and transform their futures. 
In closing I want to give a shoutout to Maryland Matters, whose work on the announcement of the Inspector General for Education was far more thorough than anything else I found.  A shoutout to Danielle E. Gaines, whose informative tweet caught my eye, and Hannah Gaskill  and Bruce DePuyt for the piece, “Hogan Appoints Veteran of U.S. Marshals Service as Education IG.” So far, every other piece I have read is a basic regurgitation of the Governors press release.
You can learn more about Maryland Matters here.

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