By Erin Cox
On the first day of school in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan renewed his criticism of public school management, saying he sees a culture of unchecked corruption across the state and announcing that he has hired a new investigator to serve as a public watchdog.
Hogan (R) signed an executive order creating the post — director of the Office of Education Accountability — during a news conference Tuesday morning. He also promised that if he is reelected in November, he will push for a law that gives the investigator subpoena power.
The governor said he has hired Valerie Radomsky, currently an education aide to Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), to the new job. She starts Sept. 12 and will focus on fielding complaints from the public and reviewing allegations that Hogan said could range from misspent school funding to grade fixing.
“The status quo is simply not good enough for Maryland’s children,” Hogan said, citing what he called “a persistent and alarming lack of accountability in local school systems across the state.”
“Not addressing it would mean failing the Maryland taxpayers who are paying for it, but more importantly, it would mean the responsible adults are failing our children,” he said.
Hogan cited occurrences in five of the state’s 24 school districts over the past two years: grade-altering allegations in Prince George’s County, a mold problem in Howard County, low test scores in Baltimore City, the removal of a Washington County school board member over inappropriate social media posts and the former Baltimore County superintendent serving jail time for failing to disclose outside income.
Earlier this year, amid the Prince George’s investigation and shortly before Baltimore County schools superintendent Dallas Dance was indicted, Hogan proposed creating a similar “investigator general” with subpoena power.
The General Assembly did not approve his legislation.
Del. Eric G. Luedtke(D-Montgomery) chairs the House’s education subcommittee that reviewed the governor’s legislation. He said Tuesday that lawmakers did not endorse the proposal because it created a “new level of bureaucracy” without addressing underlying problems about insufficient state laws dealing with school employee ethics, financial disclosures and procurement.
Luedtke, who often publicly spars with Hogan over education policy, said that the state already has agencies in place to provide accountability and that the governor’s job is to ensure that they do so. Hogan’s announcement, just four months before his term ends, amounts to too little, too late, the Democrat said.
“The buck stops at the governor’s desk in terms of accountability,” Luedtke said. “Everything that he’s proposing are things that existing state agencies can do. And if they’re not doing it, he needs to tell them to. They work for him.”