Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan holds up budget books during a Jan. 19 press briefing in Annapolis after introducing a fiscal 2023 budget proposal, his last financial presentation as governor before his term ends next year. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan holds up budget books during a Jan. 19 press briefing in Annapolis after introducing a fiscal 2023 budget proposal, his last financial presentation as governor before his term ends next year. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

In January, Governor Hogan released his budget proposal for the 2023 fiscal year – his final budget as governor. Budgets are a statement of an administration’s priorities, and this proposal makes it clear that our schools and our students aren’t a priority for Governor Hogan.

As a former teacher and principal, and a lifelong advocate for equitable public education, I am particularly concerned about the inadequate funding in Governor Hogan’s budget to deliver on the promise of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. The Blueprint was the product of an extensive study and stakeholder engagement process to define what investments are needed to make sure all Maryland students — regardless of race, income, disability, language spoken at home, or region of the state — can get a world-class public education. The Blueprint is also critical to supporting educators, ensuring excellent educational experiences for all students that prepare them for college and career success, and closing opportunity gaps that disproportionately harm students from low-income backgrounds and students of color.

I am no stranger to the critical role schools play in shaping a child’s future. My mother died when I was 8, my dad when I was 12, and my father struggled with undiagnosed Alzheimer’s in the four years between their passing. Home was often a scary, destabilizing place during that period, but my public schools and teachers remained a source of security and joy throughout my childhood. I’d likely be dead or in prison without the great public schools I was lucky enough to attend. School saved my life, and I am deeply concerned that Governor Hogan’s budget will deny Maryland educators the ability to properly serve our kids and give them the same chance that I had.

In teaching education policy at UMD College Park, I find that when my students from across Maryland communities share their school experiences with each other, they are always shocked to learn of the dramatic disparities in public school student experiences. Some students had access to multiple Advanced Placement courses, others did not. Some students had access to robust socioemotional support and postsecondary planning assistance from school counselors, others did not. Some students experienced school buildings with adequate heat in the winter and adequate air conditioning when it was intensely hot, others did not. These disparities will continue to exist in our schools as long as we continue to neglect the needs of Maryland students.

The pandemic has created additional academic and socioemotional challenges for students across the state and worsened disparities between communities. As a current Montgomery County Public Schools parent, I am particularly disappointed by the governor’s continued lack of attention to addressing the needs of our public schools. I know I’m not the only one. Parents, educators, and students are frustrated and exhausted by these circumstances – and understandably so.

Following through on the Blueprint is our best chance of getting all our students the education they deserve. Maryland families deserve leaders who will champion the full funding and implementation of the Blueprint while taking teacher and parent input into consideration every step of the way.

Governor Hogan’s budget proposal will underfund our public schools by $140 million while creating over $200 million in tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the wealthy. Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following his education policies over his years in office. After all, he vetoed the Blueprint when it crossed his desk, and the only reason we even have this framework for reform is because the General Assembly was able to override his veto. Governor Hogan’s decision to underfund the Blueprint is just another example that meeting the needs of Maryland students is simply not a priority for his administration.

Maryland needs to prioritize quality education in order for our state as a whole to flourish. Our economic success, our health outcomes – all depend on the strength of our education system. By not making stronger investments in schools in his budget, Gov. Hogan is making it clear that Maryland’s success isn’t his top priority.

I am deeply grateful for the voices of legislative leaders like Speaker Jones who are willing to call out the lack of funding we’re seeing from the administration, and I hope that we see positive changes to address these concerns in the coming days.

King, an educator and former U.S. education secretary in the Obama administration, is currently a Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland.

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