Friday, August 24, 2007

 

Tell me again why this is Bob Ehrlich's Fault?

I’m on a Martin O’Malley kick now so I’d like to revisit one of his central themes during the campaign: Educational Funding. His campaign was all over Bob Ehrlich on this subject as this blurb from the O’Malley Campaign website shows:

"Broken Promise/Idea #10:

“Fully fund Thornton Commission Fair Education Act by guaranteeing that the bulk of the money earned from slot machines is earmarked for all Maryland schools.‿

Bob Ehrlich’s Record of Failure:

In 2002, Bob Ehrlich refused to sign the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act, also known as the Fair Education plan, enacted by the Maryland General Assembly. Based on the recommendations of the Commission on Education, Finance, Equity, and Excellence (“The Thornton Commission‿), the Act was mandated to ensure adequate funding for the state’s K-12 public schools according to the Geographic Cost of Education Index.

Since the Thornton Commission was enacted without Bob Ehrlich’s signature, Ehrlich has refused to fund the Geographic Cost of Education Index.

As Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown pledge to fully fund the entire Thornton Commission plan, including the Geographic Cost of Education Index." Martin O'Malley: September 13, 2006

As an aside, I’ll just nit-pick a bit and point out that one of the reasons – I don’t know, it may even be the main reason - Bob Ehrlich REFUSED TO SIGN the Fair Education Plan as enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in 2002 was because he was then a U.S. Congressman. And I have previously mocked Governor O’Malley’s own initial refusal “to fully fund the entire Thornton Commission plan, including the Geographic Cost of Education Index.”

But it was another one of those campaign postings that I think should be remembered:

“When the measure requiring the state to make school funding increases mandated by the Thornton plan became law in 2004, it did so without Ehrlich’s signature. [The Baltimore Sun, “Ehrlich Lets Stand Thornton Schools Bill,‿ March 6, 2004]Martin O'Malley:August 30, 2006

Actually, what Governor Ehrlich didn’t sign was a bill removing what was known as a 'trigger' mechanism for increased funding. The 'trigger' required a joint resolution by the General Assembly that there was money to fully fund the provisions of the plan. Otherwise, any increase in funding was limited to 5%. For some reason, this rare exercise of fiscal sanity became controversial and 2 years after passage of the original bill – and more importantly, with there now a Republican Governor – both legislatures voted to get rid of it. (I would have preferred to see Governor Ehrlich veto this change but, since it passed overwhelmingly in both chambers, that would probably have just been a politically useless act.)

So now, because of that 2004 political stunt by the legislative Democrats, we are now faced with a legally mandated budget shortfall which would have been more manageable if only (a) we had slots to help finance the Thornton Plan and/or (b) had the trigger still in place to ensure we weren’t legally constricted in our funding options. You know, kind of like what Governor Ehrlich was then saying.

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