Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley tossed his hat into the ring for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination Saturday.
O’Malley served as governor from 2007 to 2015, and before that had been Baltimore’s mayor since 1999. He’ll vie for the Democratic nomination against former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Independent from Vermont.
Much of O’Malley’s time as governor and mayor was spent deciphering how best to meet the challenges faced by the then-90,000-student Baltimore City school district where most students qualified for free and reduced-price meals and nearly 40 percent of freshmen didn’t graduate.
During his tenure as mayor, O’Malley led a city campaign to make hiring youths a priority and oversaw the school system at a time of radical restructuring that included negotiating a $42 million loan to avert a financial meltdown of Baltimore schools. In the end, the deal saved more than 1,200 school employees from being laid off.
Education issues were front and center during O’Malley’s time in the governor’s mansion.
Indeed, in his first State of the State address in 2007, he outlined to lawmakers an ambitious agenda for public education that included a nearly $1 billion increase for schools and school construction, as well as a freeze in college tuition for in-state students. And in 2010, the National Education Association gave its annual “America’s Greatest Education Governor Award” to O’Malley for his record increases in K-12 education spending and school-construction funds, and the creation of an independent labor board to handle bargaining disputes.
But the early years of his governorship were largely overshadowed by a public battle with then-State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick. In Maryland, the state ed chief position is appointed by the state board of education, not the governor, and the two tussled over various education policy matters.
One of his more high-profile achievements as governor was helping to shepherd through the state legislature and eventually into law a bill that made some undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state tuition.
O’Malley also oversaw the education policy changes throughout the state spurred by its 2010 winning of a $250 million federal Race to the Top grant, which ushered in, among other things, teacher evaluation based in part on student test scores.
He also signed into law a bill that changed the state’s “maintenance of effort” provision that requires counties to fund schools at equal per-pupil levels from one year to the next, after several cut their per-pupil spending levels in order to lower their base school-funding requirements for future years.