- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

If yesterday's front-page story on educational "reform" in Maryland is any indication, The Washington Post would rather run infomercials for the state's Democratic Party machine than seriously examine whether it makes sense to pour lots of additional dollars into a failed public school system. Although the point seems lost on The Post's editors, the headline of the story, "Md. seeks 'Adequacy,' Recasting School Debate," is itself a sign of how dysfunctional the state's public school system is. After all, most responsible parents, one would think, want their children to strive for excellence in education, and would be angry at the suggestion that they should settle for mere "adequacy."

In fact, the propaganda campaign in support of the one-party General Assembly's vote earlier this month to spend an additional $1.3 billion on education over the next five years has little to do with educational achievement. But it has everything to do with avoiding expensive lawsuits from people intent on forcing taxpayers to throw lots of additional money at schools. Two years ago, Gov. Parris Glendening appointed a commission to find a way to reduce "disparities" in educational funding. The panel, headed by liberal activist and former Prince George's County school board president Alvin Thornton, recommended that spending increase from $3,500 to $6,000 per student, and that Annapolis increase educational spending by $1.1 billion over the next five years, with a greater share of the dough going to poorer jurisdictions such as Baltimore and Prince George's. When politicians from Montgomery County, one of the most affluent jurisdictions in the country, claimed their students would be victimized by the new funding formula and threatened to sabotage the whole thing, they were in essence bought off with the addition of close to $200 million in additional funding.

The article, written by Lori Montgomery, reads like a press release for the Thornton panel and the Democratic politicos who rammed its proposals through the General Assembly. The story is filled with verbiage about how far-sighted Maryland politicians were in designing their program to ensure that all Maryland students get an "adequate" education. To put the squeeze on politicians to fork over the additional dough, liberal advocacy organizations came up with plenty of data purporting to show that Maryland's docile liberal electorate was willing to pay higher taxes in an order to "improve" education. "The commission proved, legally, that we had an inadequately funded education system," said Sen. Barbara Hoffman, chairman of the Senate's budget committee and a member of the Thornton commission. Mrs. Hoffman, a close ally of Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, declared that the day she helped ram the education money bill through the legislature and the higher taxes required to pay for it was the proudest day of her life.

Unfortunately, given the disarray and chaos that pervades the public school system which Mrs. Hoffman and her colleagues have created, the taxpaying public will have plenty of reason to disagree. Despite recent infusions of new money, Baltimore's schools remain as dangerous and violent as ever. In Prince George's, the state seized control of the public schools in the wake of plummeting test scores and an ugly feud between the elected school board and the superintendent. Finally, it turned out that the test in question, the annual Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP), may be useless in measuring student achievement and that state schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick is blocking release of a 300-page critique of the test by a state-appointed panel. In short, contrary to the theme of The Post's puff piece, there is no reason to believe that this additional money will be usefully spent by state educrats.

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