- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed Maryland’s blueprint for identifying and assisting struggling schools on Wednesday, saying the formula approved by the Democrat-led legislature weakens accountability and undermines state efforts to help.

Hogan, speaking at the Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys, said the bill is too lax on academic performance standards, caves in to special interests and would make it “nearly impossible” for the state to fix struggling schools.

“Instead of racing to the top, we would be trapped in a race to the bottom,” Hogan said. “This bill would make us one of the least accountable school systems in the United States of America.”

The bill passed last week by the General Assembly creates a formula for identifying struggling schools. Academic performance would comprise 65 percent of the formula, with a variety of other indicators also playing a role in evaluating school performance.

Supporters say the formula takes into consideration important factors beyond academic performance, such as attendance, safety and teacher quality. They say it enables lawmakers to create a comprehensive set of standards before a September deadline for states to submit a plan to the federal government, standards that take a big-picture view of how schools succeed and why some don’t.

Betty Weller, who heads the state teacher’s union, said the governor’s opposition is a reflection of policies supported by President Donald Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos.

Gov. Hogan’s veto of the Protect Our Schools Act isn’t out of left field, but it’s certainly out of touch,” said Weller, who is president of the Maryland State Education Association. “It’s profoundly frustrating that the governor refuses to stand with parent, educator, and civil rights groups in support of a smarter, more transparent approach to holding schools accountable, and instead stands with Betsy DeVos in attempting to privatize our public schools.”

Hogan also has said that Maryland could lose tens of millions of dollars in federal funding under the bill, but supporters of the legislation dispute that.

The Maryland State Board of Education unanimously opposes the bill.

The measure is the legislature’s response to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which was approved in 2015. It allows states to decide how to use a mix of test scores, academic growth and other factors, such as chronic absenteeism, to identify failing schools.

The governor rejected the bill in time for the General Assembly to override his veto before lawmakers adjourn on Monday at midnight. The bill passed in both houses with enough support to override Hogan’s veto.

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