Wednesday, February 7, 2018

HEARING ALERT: Accountability In Education Act Of 2018

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HEARING ALERT: Accountability In Education Act Of 2018Important Legislation Will Address Lack Of Accountability In Local School SystemsNote: Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee to Hold Hearing on SB 302 on February 7, 2018, 12:45 PM
“There is a persistent and alarming lack of accountability in local education systems all across the state, and it cannot and will not be tolerated by our administration. Not addressing it would mean failing Maryland taxpayers and more importantly failing our children, especially the ones who need our help the most.” - Governor Larry Hogan, January 8, 2018
Accountability In Education Act Of 2018
Governor Hogan’s Proposed Legislation Creates An Independent Office Of The State Education Investigator General; This New Office Will Be Charged With Investigating Complaints Of Unethical, Unprofessional, Improper, Or Illegal Conduct Relating To Procurement, Education Assets, Graduation Requirements, Grading, Education Facilities, And School Budgets. “There is an Investigator General in the Education Monitoring Unit… The Education Monitoring Unit shall investigate complaints of unethical, unprofessional, or illegal conduct of: Individuals employed by the Department of a county board; An appointed or elected member of a county board; or Any other person or entity associated with the provision of educational facilities, products, or services to the Department, a county board, or a public school... The Education Monitoring Unit is an independent unit of the state…” (“Senate Bill 302,” Maryland General Assembly, 1/22/18)
  • Under The Governor’s Proposal, The Investigator General Will Be Selected By A Commission Consisting Of Appointees By The Senate President, The Speaker Of The House, And The Governor. “The Investigator General shall be appointed by the Commission… There is an Investigator General Selection and Review Commission in the Education Monitoring Unit. The Commission consists of: Two individuals appointed by the President of the Senate; Two individuals appointed by the Speaker of the House; and Five individuals appointed by the Governor.” (“Senate Bill 302,” Maryland General Assembly, 1/22/18)
Elected Officials And Education Advocates Have Echoed Governor Hogan’s Call For More Accountability.
Speaker Mike Busch: Let me just say this, first of all, every local subdivision, elected school boards, county councils, county executives, commissioners, all have to be held accountable for their school systems and the people who are hired in their school systems.  Are there times where there's outliers, absolutely, but our goal is to make sure that we avoid that.” (“Fix The Fund Press Conference,” 1/30/18)
Senator J.B. Jennings: “It is one of the largest expenses in our state budget. There needs to be accountability… It needs to be reviewed so the governor and the legislature know the money is being spent wisely.” (Erin Cox and Michael Dresser, “Hogan Proposes ‘Corruption; Investigator For Maryland’s Public Schools,” The Baltimore Sun, 1/8/18)  
Senator Jim Brochin: “It’ll give people who find the behavior of these local school boards and some superintendents, people who find their behavior outrageous and unethical a venue to take their concerns and have them adjudicated.” (John Lee, “Kamenetz Defends County Schools As Governor Calls For Corruption Investigator,” WYPR, 1/12/18)
Delegate Maggie McIntosh:“I do think there probably should be a role ... to make sure that counties are addressing any ethical issues that come up.” (Erin Cox and Michael Dresser, “Hogan Proposes ‘Corruption; Investigator For Maryland’s Public Schools,” The Baltimore Sun, 1/8/18)   
Edward Burroughs, Prince George’s County School Board Member: “So to have an [investigator general] with the ability to subpoena documents, the ability to compel people to testify and to refer individuals that have done unethical things to law enforcement is an important thing.” (Ovetta Wiggins and Donna St. George, “Hogan Proposes ‘Investigator General’ To Probe Problems In Md. Schools,” The Washington Post, 1/8/18)
Patricia O’Neill, Montgomery County School Board Member: “I think every school system, every public entity, needs to be held accountable.” (Ovetta Wiggins and Donna St. George, “Hogan Proposes ‘Investigator General’ To Probe Problems In Md. Schools,” The Washington Post, 1/8/18)  
Janis Sartucci, Parents Coalition:  “It’s long overdue and desperately needed… If the governor is looking at bringing in additional resources and additional oversight, we would fully support that.” (Kate Ryan, “Md. Gov. Hogan Slams Regional Schools, Calls For Inspector General,” WTOP, 1/8/18)
Local Maryland School Systems Have Been Engulfed In Repeated Allegations Of Wrongdoing, Corruption, And Mismanagement
An Independent Audit Found That More than 5,000 High School Students In Prince George’s County Had Their Grades Changed After The Grading Cut Off Date; Students Lacked Documentation To Justify Graduation. “Grades for nearly 5,500 students in a Maryland school system were changed days before graduation during the past two years, according to results from an investigation sparked by concerns that educators were fraudulently boosting graduation rates… The 211-page report pointed to problems in grading and student absenteeism, but did not find that tampering was ordered by the district’s leadership, which includes chief executive Kevin Maxwell. Nor was there evidence of systemwide intimidation, according to the independent investigators, who were hired after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ordered a review… The results were troubling: The investigators found about 30 percent of the students whose records were reviewed either lacked documentation that justified graduation or were clearly ineligible.” (Donna St. George and Lynh Bui, “Probe Finds Late Grade Changes For 5,500 In Prince George’s,” The Washington Post, 11/3/17)   
Baltimore City School Officials Have Mismanaged Funds And Returned $66 Million Over Eight Years In State Funding; Much Of Which Would Have Been Used To Fix HVAC Systems. “Baltimore schools have had to return millions in state funding for building repairs after projects to fix failing heating systems and roofs grew too expensive or took too long. Since 2009, city schools have lost out on roughly $66 million in state funding for much-needed repairs after approved projects ran afoul of state regulations meant to prevent waste, records show. The money could have funded dozens of new heating systems at schools where the heat is now failing.” (Luke Broadwater, “Baltimore Schools Have Returned Millions In State Funds For heating Repairs,” The Baltimore Sun, 1/4/18)     
The Previous Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Failed To Disclose That He Received Payments From A Firm, Whose Clients Later Received Several No Bid Contracts. “From the moment Dallas Dance launched his digital overhaul of Baltimore County public schools in 2012, the former superintendent recommended hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to education technology firms from across the nation. Many of the purchases were made without competitive bidding. Discovery Education’s no-bid contract is worth $10 million. DreamBox Learning and Curriculum Associates both have no-bid deals worth $3.2 million. And Code To The Future has a nearly $1 million no-bid contract. Other than being Baltimore County school contractors, the four companies share another common feature: They are clients of Education Research & Development Institute… Concerns about the consulting work have intensified since a Baltimore County grand jury charged Dance on Tuesday with four counts of perjury for failing to disclose what the Maryland State Prosecutor’s office said was nearly $147,000 of income he earned as a private consultant. Some of the pay came from ERDI.” (Doug Donovan and Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun, 1/25/18)
There Was Concern Over How Some Montgomery County School Board Members Used Their Government Issued Credit Cards On Improper Meal Purchases. “Scrutiny over how some members of a Maryland school board are using their government-issued credit cards is growing, and board leaders are considering sweeping changes because of it. The News4 I-Team spent the past week reviewing 1,500 pages of credit card receipts, taxpayer-funded expenses from the past few years by top administrators and members of the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education – part-time board members who earn about $18,500 per year. The I-Team found thousands of dollars in meal expenses -- more than 130 meals paid for by taxpayers.” (Scott MacFarlane, “Montgomery County School Board Scrutinized Over Use Of Government-Issued Credit Cards,” NBC Washington, 6/12/14)
In Howard County, School Officials Neglected To Inform Parents Or The School Community Of Mold Found In Schools; Endangering The Health Of Students, Teachers, And Staff. “We now know that Howard County's Glenwood Middle School has a fluctuating mold problem. We know that the Howard County Public School System has launched an effort to ameliorate the problem. And, we know a lot of other things that were kept hidden from the public for years. The school district has quietly investigated the mold problem for two years without alerting the school community, monitoring air quality and mold spore levels on a dozen occasions. The reason we know this now is through documents released through a Maryland Public Information Act request. We also know because the issue, amplified by parents using social media, became too pressing for the school district to sit on any longer. Questions about mold in the school, which was built in 1967, arose in recent weeks after students and teachers reported ailments that they believed were mold related. It was more than just some sneezing. Teachers reported heart palpitations and a breathing problem that triggered an emergency room visit. Teachers observed a rash of students with nosebleeds, sinus infections and bronchitis. A parent said a mysterious illness that caused her son to miss 16 days during his sixth-grade year was finally starting to make sense. Meanwhile, two Glenwood Middle paraeducators have filed workers' compensation claims for what they argue are health issues caused by mold.” (Editorial, “Howard County School District Wrogn To Keep Mold Investigation Under Wraps,” Howard County Times, 8/5/15)
A Washington County School Board Member Was Removed By The State Board Of Education Following Harmful And Unprofessional Comments On Social Media. “State education officials on Tuesday ordered that Karen Harshman be removed from the Washington County Board of Education… ‘Her violations were 'substantial' and 'harmful to the local board's functioning' as well as lacking in professionalism,’ the order said. ‘Ms. Harshman action's have undermined the trust the community and her fellow board members can place in her judgment and necessitate her removal from the board.’... The administrative charges filed Nov. 1 against Harshman stem from comments she made on social media last fall, alleging that there were current or former teachers in Washington County Public Schools who had engaged in sexual relationships with students, and the school system did not act appropriately to address it.” (CJ Lovelace, “Md. Officials Order Harshman’s Removal From School Board,” Herald-Mail Media, 4/25/17)  

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