The Maryland Senate confirmed members of an education reform oversight panel Tuesday morning February 15th, after Republicans sought to delay the appointments, citing concerns about geographic diversity and as partisan, inconsistent.
Sen. Stephen Hershey (R-Upper Shore) again raised concerns on the Senate floor Tuesday over how Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board members were chosen, contending that the board does not reflect the diversity of the state of Maryland. This bickering has led Governor Larry Hogan to withhold more than $140 million for Prince George’s and Baltimore city jurisdiction.
Four of the board members reside in Montgomery County, three in Baltimore City, one in Baltimore County and one in Anne Arundel County.
Sen. Stephen Hershey interrogated Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), who sat on the committee that nominated AIB members, on the committee’s outreach efforts to find applicants for the board, which is charged with overseeing progress on education reform efforts throughout the state and can withhold funding from local school districts that fail to meet certain goals.
Pinsky said that the committee sent public announcements to 40 media outlets across the state and that all 180 legislators, being aware of the accountability board, bore some responsibility for reaching out to potential applicants as well.
Pinsky also highlighted that rural representatives on the Kirwan Commission approved establishing a seven-member accountability board. “We only had seven slots — every county did not get a slot based on geographic representation,” Pinsky said.
But Hershey took issue with the fact that the nominating committee did not reconsider the nominees following letters from various groups — including the Maryland Latino Caucus and Prince George’s County Executive — asking them to do so. “It wasn’t just a few pissed-off rural county legislators,” Hershey said.
“What was the hurry that this could not be addressed?” he continued. “When letters go to the nominating committee about the makeup of this board, and they did absolutely nothing about it, they’re doing that because they say — we are not accountable to the General Assembly.”
Pinsky pointed out that the board members were unanimously approved by the nominating committee, including by the two members selected by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R). “We think we made the right decision,” said Pinsky, who called the AIB members “fine, smart individuals who care about the state.”
Pinsky also criticized Hogan for delaying the implementation of Blueprint for Maryland’s Future first by vetoing the bill in 2020 and second by not including full Blueprint funding in his budget. Because the Blueprint officially became law after a veto override last year, Hogan did not have to include this funding in his proposed budget for this fiscal year, which started July 1. To account for this, lawmakers directed the first $4.8 million from new sports betting revenue to go to the accountability board, which is being released as revenues are collected.
The Senate approved the confirmation of the AIB nominees — who had received initial approval from the Senate executive Nominations Committee earlier this month — in a 31-16 vote, largely on party lines. Two Democratic senators — Katherine Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County) and Ron Watson (D-Prince George’s) — joined the Republicans in voting against the nominees. Sen. Edward Reilly (R-Anne Arundel) was the only Republican who voted in favor of the nominees.
Lingering not far beneath the surface is partisan politics. One Prince George’s county resident Mike Georges who wanted to be part of the board said yesterday, that the political fight will ultimately hurt students in the county and the state.
“This is about power,” resident Mike said. “It’s about who can hit whom in the nose. . . . And our kids are sitting back here with all these needs. It should not be about politics. We need to proper Board which represents the state of Maryland to advance wellbeing these schools.”
“This is a crippling recommendation that ought to be rethought and the Maryland Senate ought to revisit to appoint a balanced delegation. I cannot imagine anything ultimately coming out of the Senate that reduces the way the state ought to be represented that does not have the aggressive representation of all Maryland senators,” said Andera Mousad.
Due to these blunders and many more, Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) is being opposed in the Democratic primary by democrat Rashad D. Lloyd in order to change the culture of Political patronage by a few connected individuals.