What the 2022 Mid-terms mean for those of us fighting to fix education in Maryland
As I left the Republican headquarters Tuesday night, a good friend approached me and said, ” You have your work cut out for you.” He was referring to the election results for the local school board and the fact that only one candidate we supported won.
My answer was, ” We work with what we are given.” I don’t know if that answer was satisfactory or was what he expected, but it’s the truth.
First, let me say that we had major wins on Tuesday. Despite the fact that our state just elected the most radical candidates as our new Governor, Comptroller and Attorney General, we had wins in local, state and national races. The media won’t acknowledge that, but what do we expect?
For clarity, local candidates elected to the school board were not a surprise for the most part. We got one of our endorsed candidates elected. As for the others, one is an incumbent. One of them was not endorsed by the Teachers’ Union, which could be a plus. One is a big supporter of charter schools. Only one of the elected members belongs to a radical leftist organization, Act Blue. Small victories.
Again, we work with what we are given. What that means is we have to get to know these people, hear their ideas, let them know what we think, how we disagree and possibly agree, try to get them to accept our ideas, get the FACTS and hold them accountable for their actions and decisions. It’s no different than what we should be doing with all of our elected officials, whether they were our choices or not. There is no cavalry, no superhero out there to save us, so we need to be engaged, and engaged appropriately. We are the army, the fighters.
This has to be the theme for going forward. This is not weakness or giving in. It is conducting the fight from a position of factual and moral strength.
Back to the original question. So now what? What do we focus on as we fight for our schools, parents and children? There are so many things that we need to fix, but we have to have priorities.
Number One: Fighting Covid vaccine mandates for school children. The Governor elect, Wes Moore, has made no secret that he would support “following the science” to protect citizens from Covid. For those of you who are unaware, the phrase “following the science” was used for two years to shame people into following CDC and WHO guidance that has since been proven faulty and even dangerous. It’s the phrase Larry Hogan and other tyrants used to close businesses and schools needlessly. It’s the phrase that ruined lives via closures and dangerous vaccines.
And now Moore is using it.
Parents and community members need to be prepared for this to happen. In 2020-2021, the decision to mask kids and push the vaccines was made by Superintendents and School Boards. Parents could appeal to school boards to stop it. Now it won’t be so easy. If the Governor creates a mandate, local agencies will have no choice. We need to start investigating what the options are NOW for fighting it.
Number Two: Investigate and prevent the removal of the decision-making process from Boards of Education and therefore the citizens. With the advent of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, formerly known as the Kirwan legislation, decision making about what happens in local schools will be taken out of the hands of the elected Boards of Education and County Councils. What does this mean?
Previously, school systems and county governments were able to determine the budget for the schools and items funded in that budget. Approximately thirty years ago, the state inserted “maintenance of effort” into the formula. In other words, the Superintendent of Schools could designate certain big-ticket items as maintenance of effort items that were protected from being removed from the budget by the county councils. These items were protected as long as the school administration wanted them protected. The State also created minimum funding guidelines that counties had to follow. But, the County Councils had some control over items not designated as maintenance of effort.
Now the Blueprint puts the entire budget under the discretion of a State Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) made up of appointed members who would arbitrate local education budgets and force both County Councils and Boards of Education to fund any programs demanded by the state school administration. A description:
The responsibility of the AIB is to approve state and local implementation plans, release or withhold funds to districts for Blueprint implementation, and receive reports on state and local execution of all Blueprint programs. In short, it is the oversight board that ensures the Blueprint is being implemented in the spirit of the law and that funding is reaching classrooms, educators, and students as intended. In case of conflict between the Maryland State Department of Education and the AIB, the AIB will have authority.
The members are appointed by the Governor and guess who gets to make nominations? The State Teacher’s Union. Guess who doesn’t? Voters.
Also, Republicans designed this system. Feel any better about it? Me neither.
The Blueprint is one mandate after another for local systems, including everything from how much teachers are paid, designating community schools* in the county, to how and what content will be taught, plus many other funding and policy issues.
This could be the reason why school systems are suddenly “streamlining” county policies and putting the policy points into Administrative Regulations. What does that mean?
For example, the discipline policy for a school system details how discipline will be carried out in the district. The policy will go through first, second and third reader and then is voted on by the elected school board. If someone has a problem with the policy, they appear in front of the Board of Education to appeal. This will change. Here is the difference between policies and regulations:
What is a Policy? – A principle adopted by the Board of Education to guide the development and implementation of educational programs and/or the management of the school system.
State law provides that a county board of education, with the advice of the Superintendent, determines the educational policies of the school system. A policy reflects principles adopted by the county board of education to guide the development and implementation of educational programs and/or the management of the school system. State and federal laws, federal laws and regulations, and regulations and bylaws of the State Board of Education are, in effect, mandated policies.
An administrative regulation is NOT voted on by the Board. Here is a description:
About Board Administrative Regulations
What is a Regulation? – A guidance and/or procedure issued by the Superintendent regarding the implementation of Board policies, COMAR, and laws relating to the operation of schools.
The Board authorizes the Superintendent to issue Administrative regulations for adopted Board policies as necessary. Such Administrative regulations serve to provide guidance and procedures regarding the implementation of Board policies, COMAR, and laws relating to the operation of schools. Administrative regulations do not require Board approval or adoption. (Source: AACPS Board Policies)
The last line in this description is the most important. “Without Board approval or adoption” means the body elected to run the schools is cut out of the process. Therefore, the public, the citizens, are also cut out of the process.
One might wonder why this is important. With all the sexualization, indoctrination, racial division, etc. in the schools as well as the trend to force parents out of the decision making for their children, these changes in the decision-making process will provide the foundation for the schools to implement whatever they want without approval or even knowledge of the public. In short, it is carte blanche for schools to do whatever they want.
It also keeps the Boards of Education unaccountable. They can blame everything on everyone else.
For example, here is the current “Home Hospital” policy for Talbot County Public Schools. Notice all the strikethroughs. These strike throughs will be removed from the policy and placed into an Administrative Regulation that the Board will have NO CONTROL OVER.
There are questions that need to be asked about this sudden move to change policies to AR’s. Who is promoting this? Why are they doing it? Is it required by the State? Whose power does this protect? What will be the recourse of the public and parents to fight regulations created in the schools? We must know the rules of the battle.
It seems that the state and federal governments, seeing that parents and community members are being elected to school boards, are trying to neutralize that movement.
Number Three: Fight back against the diversion from the intended purpose of schools, teaching academics, to a divisive, extremist agenda that has nothing to do with academic progress or growth and actually STEALS time away from academic instruction. As recent test scores showed, our children are being cheated out of the basic education the public schools once promised. This non-academic agenda is also severely damaging our children intellectually and mentally.
As stated in the following blog post, national and state test scores in Reading, Math, and Science are tragic:
Many Progressives and the State and Federal Departments of Education want to blame this decline on the Covid pandemic and associated closing of schools.
If that is the case, then the schools should be focusing MORE on academics. But they are not. Instead, they are spending time on indoctrinating our children and implementing social and emotional learning strategies that have no positive impact on academic achievement but instead serve to make children more dependent on pseudo psychological strategies while instilling social and sexual agendas that are both inappropriate and harmful.
Our kids are being indoctrinated to death. They are being told to question the reality of their gender, our society, and their capabilities to overcome barriers. They are being told to judge each other by skin color, ethnic background, and family roots. Precious time in the classroom that should be spent on catching up with academic content is lost.
John Wilson addresses this issue as it impacts math instruction in the classroom in this podcast with Deb Filman
While the podcast only addresses “Equity Math,” you can apply what he tells you to other areas. While teachers are busy teaching social justice and sexual ideology, the kids aren’t learning math, reading, science, etc. And, again, they are being coerced into treatments and counseling that is harmful.
If this is the case, then why are schools continuing down this path? As we go forward, we need to not only question these practices but strongly oppose them. Board of Education members and school administrators need to know that we are there to impede and ultimately stop these agendas. We are there to promote teaching children the academic skills they need to be productive, fulfilled adults.
Number Four: We must demand transparency regarding instructional and reading materials used in schools and made available to students. It’s interesting that Progressives are more than willing to condemn groups like Moms for Liberty or No Left Turn in Education for wanting to “ban books” or restrict educational freedom while THEY have been the ones demanding that books like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and various Dr. Seuss books are banned. They are the ones who cancel people for having viewpoints they don’t like. They are the ones who suppress the rights of parents to speak up.
The two groups mentioned above are against pornographic and racist literature in the classrooms and libraries of schools, especially when they expose our youngest students to these damaging materials. Hard to imagine that Progressives think this is okay, but they do.
It’s also interesting that school systems are using every possible excuse NOT to let parents and community members examine instructional materials and lessons. Opponents of transparency and the teachers’ union tell us, “We need to trust the teachers, they are the experts.” As a comparison, think about this.
The State of Maryland is getting ready to build a new Bay Bridge in the future. This process is under CONSTANT public scrutiny as the site is selected and the bridge and other infrastructure is designed. Imagine if the State said, “We need to trust the Maryland Transportation Authority, they are the experts,” and then told citizens they could NOT see nor comment on these plans. The uproar would be deafening.
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People demand transparency and input into things like building a bridge, but are supposed to leave the education of their children to teachers without transparency? I don’t think so. Children are so much more precious than bridges.
Teaching children basic math, reading, science, history, English is not rocket science, especially with all the resources available online. Aren’t parents experts in their children? Don’t they know their children and the beliefs they want them to hold better than anyone else? How insulting to insinuate that only teachers know how and what to teach a child and that curriculum should be hidden from the eyes of those whose most precious child will be affected.
We need to demand this information in the same way we demand plans for public projects.
Finally, we cannot let the names or the parties of the people in charge change our commitment to stay on this task, stay in this fight. As a friend recently told me, “Education is the MOST important issue we must address right now.” We must set our priorities and stick with them. We don’t need to burn the system down, we need to get inside the system and implement sweeping change.
So, to answer the question, “Now what?”
I heard a preacher say recently, “It’s easy to fight when the wind is at our backs. But now the wind is against us. We have to step into the wind. This will take grace, confidence, and facts rather than faulty emotions. God has given us our different gifts for the fight. We need to use the ones He has given us.”
Jan Greenhawk can be reached at [email protected]