Maryland Legislature Overrides Veto of Bill Clipping State Board’s Wings on ESSA

By Daarel Burnette II — April 06, 2017 2 min read
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Maryland’s legislature today overrode Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a controversial bill that would limit the state’s use of charter operators and vouchers to improve low-performing schools as part of its Every Student Succeeds Act accountability plan.

The bill, known as “Protect Our Schools,” also prescribes how much the state can use standardized test scores and other measures to determine a school’s performance under the ESSA plan to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

“It’s about kids being trapped in schools that don’t give them a real chance, and where they are denied a quality education,” Hogan said, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The bill passed by the state’s Democratically-controlled legislature was heavily backed by the state’s teacher’s union, which argued that it was meant to prevent the “privatization” of the state’s public school system and limit the overuse of testing in the classroom.

The state’s board of education, led by Andy Smarick, a nationally recognized resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, denounced the bill as overriding the state board’s powers and limiting its options to hold the state’s public school systems accountable.

“The state board of education continues to oppose this legislation because it deprioritizes student achievement, dictates how we share school performance information with families and other stakeholders, and limits, instead of expands, the state’s ability to address the needs of boys and girls in persistently underperforming schools,” Smarick said in a statement.

Maryland is one of several states where legislatures have overridden state boards’ power and dictated for themselves the content of their ESSA accountability plans.

Kentucky’s Republican Gov. Matt Bevin earlier this month signed a bill that would, as part of that state’s ESSA plan, shift several powers from the state department of education, the state school board, and the thousands of local school councils to district superintendents and school board members. West Virginia’s Gov. Jim Justice proposed a bill earlier this month that would get rid of its A-F system (which the state board later did on its own), review its state standards, and weaken the state department’s school intervention program. And Chris Reykdal, Washington’s recently elected superintendent and a former legislator, has pushed a bill that would shift from the state board of education to the legislature powers to hold schools accountable, among other things.

These legislature and state school board fights have delayed several states from turning in their ESSA plans to the federal government this month, the first of two deadlines for them to do so. South Carolina, where the board completed its ESSA plan a handful of months after ESSA was passed in 2015, has decided to wait until September to turn in its plan to the federal government.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.