Saturday, April 2, 2016
Peter Franchot: @peterfranchot Yesterday was a bad day for parents, teachers, students, & advocates for transparency in education.
For those who may have missed all of this, two amendments were added to the capital budget that will have a significant effect on the quality of public education, and public school governance, in the State of Maryland.
The first would remove the Board of Public Works from the state's public school construction appeals process altogether, and leave state funding and oversight completely in the hands of an obscure, unelected body that meets in virtual privacy. And in so doing, take away from concerned teachers, families and taxpayers the opportunity to express their concerns before the Governor, Comptroller and Treasurer in a transparent, public forum.
The second amendment would prohibit the use of state school construction dollars for portable air conditioning units in Baltimore County and Baltimore City - where tens of thousands of children suffer in temperatures that approach triple digits on warm school days. Many of you may recall that Governor Hogan and I worked together earlier this year to approve regulations that would allow the State to make timely investments in short-term temperature relief, just as local school systems around the state have done, with great success, for years.
All of this in a budget bill that was never intended to serve as a platform for legislative policymaking. None of this done with public hearings, advance notice, input or consent from Marylanders who foot the bill for the General Assembly.
To everyone who feels this is an inexplicable betrayal of the public trust, rest assured that I understand your frustration. And I've been in Annapolis long enough to know what is occurring. It is simply another cynical effort to limit the authority of the Board of Public Works, simply because Governor Hogan had the audacity to win the 2014 gubernatorial election and because I've had the audacity to set partisanship aside to work with the Governor on behalf of fiscal responsibility.
While these amendments were intended as shots at Governor Hogan and me, the children of our state - along with their families and teachers - are the ones who are really hurt by these Annapolis power plays. These actions represent the worst of public policy, because they put the health and safety of innocent people at risk, and because they have been done with an utter lack of transparency.
Fortunately for all of us, their efforts will ultimately prove ineffective. I will continue, with vigor, to use the Board of Public Works as a platform for asking hard questions and demanding accountability from education bureaucrats who receive hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars. While I cannot speak for Governor Hogan, I suspect he feels the same way.
I know that so many of you have waited so long, and worked so hard, to protect your children from the health and safety effects of sweltering classrooms. Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for standing up and being a part of this good fight. And please take my word that our fight will not only continue, but will escalate - both this year and beyond - until every classroom in Baltimore County and Baltimore City has the same temperature controls that are taken for granted in those backrooms in Annapolis. As I said last fall, we will get this done. We will protect the health and safety of our children, whether we do it the easy way or the hard way.