Gov Larry Hogan, Republican of Maryland, signed an executive order Tuesday, thereby creating a new post in his administration: director of the Office of Education Accountability, the Washington Post reports.
Valerie Radomsky, who currently works for the state as an education aide to Comptroller Peter Franchot, will begin her new role on September 12. When she arrives, she’ll look into just about everything. The governor listed five recent examples that might be similar to the kinds of things his new director will investigate:
- alleged grade-fixing in Prince George’s County
- a mold problem in Howard County
- persistently low test scores in Baltimore City
- inappropriate social media posts by a Washington County board member
- ethics breaches and jail time for a former superintendent in Baltimore County
He said this evidence showed “a persistent and alarming lack of accountability in local school systems across the state.”
The new office will certainly create a few reports about problems in public schools in the state. It should not, however, be used as a sounding board or advocacy group for the privatization of functions now performed, to a greater or lesser degree in the state’s 24 school districts, by officials in the public school system.
I work at the Maryland State Department of Education, and the division I work in was just renamed the Division of Assessment, Accountability, and Information Technology. “Accountability” is our middle name, and other agencies in the state are charged with overseeing other functions or looking into complaints from the public or from elected officials similar to those listed by Mr Hogan in signing this order.
In the end, we’re talking about children, and they are worthy of every ounce of oversight we can afford to give them. Having visited schools and talked with students in so many states, I know the kids at Maryland’s public and private schools are some of the best. That doesn’t mean problems in the school systems don’t need to be fixed, but I have to wonder if we’re farming out the state’s education department and school board to an office that has too little connection to what’s good about Maryland schools. Will we throw the baby out with the bathwater?
Delegate Eric Luedtke, a Democrat representing Montgomery County and the chair of the House of Delegates’ education subcommittee, said after the announcement that a similar proposal from Mr Hogan in the past would have created a “new level of bureaucracy” without addressing underlying problems about insufficient state laws dealing with school employee ethics, financial disclosures, and procurement.
“The buck stops at the governor’s desk in terms of accountability,” the Post quoted him as saying. “Everything that he’s proposing are things that existing state agencies can do. And if they’re not doing it, he needs to tell them to. They work for him.”