Maryland educators feel schools taking back seat as Gov. Hogan focused on pandemic and potential unrest in streets

Maryland

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has been in the national spotlight the past few months for his leadership role during the COVID-19 crisis.

Hogan is a chairman of the National Governors’ Association. When his legislature packed up early because of the coronavirus, Hogan took command of pandemic public policy with business shutdowns and a jobless benefits system in disarray.

Now he is hoping Maryland won’t have a repeat of the Freddie Gray riots, with the backdrop of last week’s killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, the Maryland education community, beset with challenges during the public health crisis, is waiting patiently on the sidelines to reopen schools this fall. But it is anxious about the future because of Hogan’s veto of a landmark education bill right after legislators went home.

“We put funding in jeopardy,” says Washington County Teachers’ Association president Neil Becker. “When the governor vetoed the [education] blueprint — which passed the General Assembly — he basically indicated through that veto that funding for education isn’t a priority in Maryland.”

At $4 billion, it came with a hefty price tag. And now the state faces a $2 billion to $3 billion defict as a result of the pandemic. But special education advocates say they will be especially hard hit.

Angie Auldridge is a Washington County special education advocate and says special ed has been historically underfunded. “That’s at the federal, the state and the local level, special education suffers the brunt of that shortage. Our students with disabilities require much greater support from teachers, from paraprofessionals, psychologists, social workers and service providers,” she says.

Teachers Association president Becker says the blueprint already had provisions in it to pump the breaks if state revenues did not meet their target, making the veto unnecessary.

And Auldridge says the funding is critical to meet federal education mandates.

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