After saying he wouldn’t increase spending during the economic downturn accompanying the coronavirus, Gov. Larry Hogan today vetoed two bills aimed at educational equity.
Most notably, he vetoed HB1300, the landmark legislation which would have funded the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.
Among those recommendations were expanded prekindergarten instruction, higher teacher pay, improved college-prep, and greater state support for schools with concentrations of children from low-income families.
The governor also vetoed HB1260, which gives the state’s four historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) about $580 million by 2031. Two of those schools, Morgan State University and Coppin State University, are located in Baltimore.
The vetoed HBCU bill would help settle a bitter 2006 federal lawsuit in which the state was accused of undermining black colleges and universities by creating duplicate academic programs at traditionally white schools. Last fall, Hogan made a “final offer” of $200 million to settle the lawsuit, which was far less than the coalition demanded.
Hogan cited the “economic turmoil” arising from the coronavirus as the reason for vetoing the Kirwan and HBCU legislation.
“The economic fallout from this pandemic simply makes it impossible to fund any new programs, impose any new tax hikes, nor adopt any legislation having any significant fiscal impact, regardless of the merits of the legislation,” he wrote in a letter to Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County).
Education advocates across the state, including William “Brit” Kirwan, chair and namesake of the commission, denounced Hogan’s veto of the school funding bill.
Many noted that the bill allocates only $37 million to Maryland’s public schools in the next fiscal year, then ramps up spending to an estimated total of $4 billion by FY2025.
Kirwan said he was disappointed by Hogan’s “shortsighted” and “unfortunate” decision. He pointed to a mechanism in the bill that caps spending during economic downturns and could have been applied to the present moment.
“The legislature had the foresight to suspend funding for it during the kind of fiscal downturn we are experiencing at the moment,” he stated.
“If anything, the disparate impact of Covid-19 on low-income and minority communities only reinforces the need and moral imperative for the provisions in the bill,” added Kirwan, who served as chancellor of the University System of Maryland from 2002 to 2015.
Others who spoke out today wanted to do more than bemoan Hogan’s veto – they wanted to fight it.
Multiple stakeholders in Kirwan bill demanded an override of the Republican governor’s veto, which the Democratic majority in the General Assembly could attempt, either at a special session this year or at the next regular session in January.
Other statements on the Kirwan veto:
• Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bolt: “Our schools have been underfunded for years and recent weeks have only magnified the existing inequities that our students face every day that challenge their ability to succeed in school.”
• ACLU of Maryland: “Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto means that tens of thousands of children will continue to attend substandard schools that do not meet the state’s constitutional guarantee of a ‘thorough and efficient’ education.”
• Joe Francaviglia, executive director of Strong Schools Maryland: “Politics is not a good enough reason to deny kids of desperately needed resources and future opportunities.”
• Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott: “The children of Baltimore, tomorrow’s future leaders, were depending on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to have schools that are equitably funded and be trained for the jobs of tomorrow.”
• Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson: “The governor had a choice today to reject traditional politics and work together to adjust shared visions and build a strong future after this crisis. Instead, he chose to foreclose hope, leaving Maryland families and historically black colleges and universities with an open question for the future.”
• Senator Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s): “Gov. Hogan shifted from crisis management to broad governing. Where he succeeded in the former, he’s failed miserably in the latter. He vetoed: Kirwan, failing our children; support for historic black colleges; and a pesticide ban that harms children. No vision, no belief system.”