Del. Barnes and Del. Washington: Hogan Vetoes Landmark Bills for Children and Families During a Pandemic

Del. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George's), chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines

During the 2020 legislative session, the General Assembly passed landmark works of legislation to address historical racial and socioeconomic disparities in our education system.

These disparities have had devastating implications for Maryland’s black and brown communities in particular. Currently, 72% of white students enroll in college one year after graduation, compared to just 52% of their black counterparts. Additionally, just 16% of black students met or exceeded expectations in Algebra 1, compared to 56% of white students. These are just a few indicators of the growing opportunity gap between different groups of children.

Del. Alonzo T. Washington (D-Prince George’s). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on these disparities. Our state’s black and brown students already lack access to high-quality preschool programs, Algebra classes, and advanced high school math and science courses that are all crucial for college preparation. The pandemic will even further reduce academic and career opportunities for these students.

Instead of rising to meet these challenges, Governor Hogan decided to veto the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future – closing the door on equitable education for students across our state. While unfortunately not surprising given his failure to lead on public education throughout his tenure as governor, his irresponsible and short-sighted veto will only serve to compound the cycle of poverty thousands of Maryland students experience daily. Through his actions, Governor Hogan has ignored the needs of struggling families and those students who have been historically disenfranchised.

Governor Hogan also decided to veto an HBCU funding bill, which will significantly damage the prospects of minority students. These schools are also historically underfunded and have been racially discriminated against by white institutions since their inception. The $577 million investment in the bill would help the state’s four HBCUs expand and create new programs, recruit faculty, establish an HBCU Reserve Fund, and benefit the local communities surrounding the schools. The bill even received unanimous support from Hogan’s Republican colleagues in the Senate, and yet was still vetoed.

The targeted funding in these bills would have worked simultaneously to balance the scales of justice in education for the first time in our state’s history. Both bills were derived from years of evaluation of evidence, data collection, best practice standards, and collaboration between germane parties. The governor’s puzzling restraint to fully fund education — even while data shows that increased funding is directly tied to the success of students — will continue to put our state’s economy and workforce at a disadvantage.

These actions demonstrate an unacceptable disregard for disadvantaged children and students from across the state of Maryland. Hogan’s decision, however, is not the end of the road. We are confident that during the next legislative session, House and Senate leadership will work together to override these vetoes, thus securing an equitable future for Maryland’s students. It is our responsibility as legislators to ensure every child receives a world-class education, regardless of their zip code and the color of their skin.

— DEL. DARRYL BARNES AND DEL. ALONZO T. WASHINGTON

Del. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George’s) is chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland. Del. Alonzo T. Washington (D-Prince George’s) is vice chair of the House Ways & Means Committee.