"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Maryland Legislature Stands Up to Privatization Bullies

Gov. Ehrlich and henchwoman Grasmick will have the weekend to evaluate the smoke damage from a firestorm they lit up by staging a politically-motivated takeover of Baltimore schools. Not even Maggie on her red fire engine could not knock down this conflagration:

Mayor O'Malley [Dem. gubernatorial candidate] portrayed the Baltimore schools as improving.

"The fact of the matter is that after 30 years of decline we're making faster progress than any other jurisdiction in the state," he said. "This is not the time to pull the rug out from reform efforts that are starting to work."

He called the takeover "a blatant political move." Dr. Grasmick, who spent Friday defending her actions to lawmakers, said she was not completely surprised by the response. Friday was the last day that the Legislature could act to block the takeover and still have time to override a veto. The bill reached the governor's desk just minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline.

"I think it's unconscionable," said Dr. Grasmick, who has been superintendent since 1992, under three governors. She denied any political motivation. "There comes a time when you have to think about what is the right thing to do," she said.
If lawmakers indeed override an expected veto, she predicted "business as usual for another year."

She said that other state superintendents who considered using the No Child Left Behind law to wrest control of chronically failing schools should anticipate the same firestorm that she faced.

Officials of the federal Education Department appeared to lend Dr. Grasmick moral support, but could offer little else. Although the federal law gives states the authority to take over schools, it does not address extraordinary measures like legislative intervention carried out on Friday.

"Leadership requires talking about the right things and doing the right things, and sometimes you take your knocks when you do that," said Henry Johnson, the federal assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

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