A group of business and civic leaders are encouraging the General Assembly to override the veto of a decade-long education reform bill, citing the need for better schooling to improve Maryland’s economic future.
“Maryland employers and employees must compete with companies across the United States and the world. An increasingly competitive economy requires a world-class education system,” the leaders write, in a letter to House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Senate Pres. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) released Wednesday. “Even before COVID, such a system did not exist in Maryland.”
The pandemic has made educational disparities and the need for improvement “even more urgent,” the advocates write.
Among the more than four dozen signatories to the letter are Norman R. Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin; David Blair, chairman of Accountable Health and potential candidate for Montgomery County executive in 2022; Ron Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University; Wes Moore, best-selling author and CEO of Robin Hood, the anti-poverty organization; Shanaysha M. Sauls, president and CEO of the Baltimore Community Foundation; Kurt L. Schmoke, president of the University of Baltimore and former Baltimore mayor; and Alvin Thornton, former chair of the Prince George’s County Board of Education and a long-time education advocate.
In addition to overriding the veto “at the earliest possible time,” the letter encourages lawmakers to maintain full funding for the reform and require implementation of all of its recommendations.
“In the Blueprint, we have a ‘shovel-ready,’ unprecedented plan to change the quality of life in Maryland and support the economy,” the letter states. “During your tenure in leadership, you will likely not encounter another generation defining opportunity to create the future. We stand ready to be of assistance in any way that would be helpful.”
Democratic leaders have regularly expressed support for the reform legislation, as well as the override of the veto.
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), who vetoed the legislation last spring, has said the bill ― which is expected to increase to school spending by state and local governments by $3.2 billion over current levels by 2030 ― will require tax increases that would burden struggling families and small businesses. Democratic lawmakers note that recent changes to Maryland’s tax structure and above-average spending online ― where a portion of sales tax is devoted to education funding ― mean the reforms are paid for through at least 2026; any needed tax increases could be targeted to avoid undue burden on average Marylanders, they argue.