Monday, February 19, 2018

Statement in Support of Gov. Hogan's Proposal for an Inspector General for Education

Statement on Senate Bill 302 Accountability in Education Act of 2018
February 7, 2018
Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee

Janis Zink Sartucci
 Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland
 parentscoalitionmc@outlook.com

Formed in 2002, the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland seeks to achieve the goals of coherent, content-rich curriculum standards; high expectations combined with timely remediation and acceleration; a wider range of educational options for parents and children; greater transparency and accountability; and meaningful community input. The Parents' Coalition is a non-partisan group made up of independents, Republicans, and Democrats like myself.  We believe that public school education is a vital right for all children.  We believe that every dollar labeled for education should benefit classrooms and that when children attend public schools they should be in a safe and secure environment.

In Governor Hogan's press conference announcing the introduction of this bill, he mentioned our 2014 investigation into the use of personal MCPS credit cards by Board of Education members and MCPS administrators.

Over the years the Parents' Coalition has investigated various issues related to our public school system.  Each and every investigation has been validated by State Audits and, or investigative journalists from all of the major news sources in the Washington, D.C. area.  Today I would like to briefly mention some of our investigations in the hopes that the vital need for an Investigator General for Education in the State of Maryland will become clear.

• Our investigation into the use of personal credit cards by Board of Education members and Montgomery County Public School administrators revealed that thousands of credit cards had been issued but that the credit card bills are paid without verification.  Over the years the credit card bill has climbed to over $8 million a year.  Any time these bills are reviewed, improprieties are revealed.

• No bid purchases continue to be the prevalent with the Board of Education and often the majority of Board of Education spending is without bids or review of vendors.  At the last Board of Education on January 9, 2018, there was $4.8 million in spending.  Of those purchases 8 contracts were no bid and 12 were “extensions.”  The majority of the $4.8 million was spent without competitive bidding or a review of contractors for quality or price.

• In 2009, while working with a federal inspector general, I uncovered the no bid purchase of 3,300 Promethean boards for over $12 million.  Those Promethean Boards were being purchased on individual invoices so as to avoid Board of Education public votes on the purchase.

• Further investigation into the under the table Promethean Board purchases revealed that the Board of Education had been receiving rebates from the federal government that they were not reporting in their public budget documents.  As of 2009, the Board of Education had received over $21 million that had not been disclosed in public budget documents.  The Board was then spending those funds on no bid purchases, without any public disclosure.

• Our 2013 investigation into the placement of commercial cell towers on public school land revealed that those cell towers were hiding in plain site and not paying property taxes.  At the time Louis Wilen discovered that the cell tower companies had avoided hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes by building on public school land.  He prompted the State to begin issuing property tax bills as required by law, but years of tax revenue was lost forever.

• In 2008, we uncovered the illegal charging of class fees.  In Maryland, students are entitled to a free public education.  Unfortunately, that right is not honored by the Montgomery County Board of Education and to this day students are denied their right to attend public school free of charge.

• In 2013, working with parents and staff we exposed the stealing of student funds at Rock Terrace School.

• In 2013, I uncovered that our Board of Education was allowing teachers who were suspected of sexually abusing students to stay in classrooms.  The Board would issue “restriction letters” to the teachers telling them to stop touching or otherwise physically interacting with students.  In some cases, the teachers were left in their classrooms, in other cases they were moved to new schools without parents ever being informed as to the potential danger to their children.

• I uncovered that Capital Budget funds of over $8 million are diverted annually to the Operating Budget without disclosure in the public budget documents.

• We have investigated students with disabilities not receiving services they need, yet that same testing qualifies them for services under the Americans with Disabilities Act if they go to college.

• Monitoring gaps:  MCPS, as well as other Maryland school districts, have been addressing educational achievement gaps forever.  MCPS has been at it for more than 3 decades.  Yet, pretty much every school district in the state is unable to answer simple questions.  For example:  Overtime, has the black-white achievement gap--measured with test scores narrowed within districts like MCPS?  The reason we cannot answer the question is because districts like MCPS have not used a common measurement standard overtime.  But one does exists:  NAEP.  Make districts use NAEP for gap measuring initiatives.  NAEP is low cost.  The federal government produces it.  Districts can buy in.  https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/

• Require districts to periodically conduct follow-along (longitudinal) studies:  We have no systematic means by which to determine if inputs generate significant outputs (outcomes).
We want all districts to conduct follow-along studies.  And these studies would include following dropouts.  Normally, such studies pick a cohort/class and begin following them at the end of middle school.  By beginning this early, studies include dropouts.  Districts also would capture what happens to special populations.  Right now, a district like MCPS only seems interested in kids that complete college--never documenting what happens to other populations. https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/hsb/    Jerry and Jody’s Kids: Where are They Now? | MoCoEdBlog

• We have monitored the public school funds diverted to the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE).   We continually watch as public education dollars are spent on this private club that gives no bid vendors exclusive access to Board of Education members in closed meetings and at an annual vacation in Ocean City.  Those vendors have secured no bid contracts with Boards of Education across the State, all without public oversight or competition.

• We have investigated and exposed the failure of our public school system to keep children safe from sexual predators in classrooms.  We have attended court proceedings and heard how teachers who have been arrested and convicted of crimes against children remain on the MCPS payroll and can even have their records expunged so that they can return to jobs working with children.  The list of teachers and administrators who have had their licenses suspended and revoked should be made public and parents should have access to this information.  Currently, the Parents' Coalition is the only source for this complete information.

• The fraud, waste and abuse of tax dollars is unfortunate, but dollars can be replaced.  Our childrens' lives can not.  First and foremost, we would like to see an Education Investigator General work on making sure that all Maryland children are safe and protected from predators when they attend our public schools.

Thank you for your time today and for your consideration of Senate Bill 302.

5 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. It is called the OPM(Other People's Money) effect.

      Delete
    2. It is called, 'when voters don't bother to vote.'

      Delete
    3. In Montgomery County's last midterm elections, ~20% of the registered voters could bother to lift their finger and put it on the ballot. Yawn. The Russians don't even have to bother.

      Delete
    4. It's not how good you make it, it's how you make it good.

      Delete

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