Education reform panel resists Hogan’s diversity request

The Maryland State House, pictured in 2017, is home to the governor’s office.

The nominating committee for an education reform panel has not reopened applications, despite Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s urgent request on Sept. 10 for more diverse nominees.

The letter from Hogan (R) requested the committee to “immediately reopen the application process and provide a slate of nominees that accurately reflect our student population.”

The education reform panel, also known as the Accountability and Implementation Board for Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, will monitor the implementation of new multi-billion dollar investments in Maryland schools beginning in 2022.

The panel’s current nominees do not represent Latino communities, the Eastern Shore, Western Maryland or any other rural jurisdictions, the governor said.

In response to Hogan’s request to reopen applications, the committee is waiting for the Maryland attorney general to provide clarity, according to Shanaysha Sauls, chair of the nominating committee.

“We need to get advice from the attorney general’s office. We’re getting legal advice about the options,” Sauls told Capital News Service.

The law requires Hogan to select seven nominees by Oct. 1 from the nominating committee’s list, which must include a minimum of nine people.

The committee, which reviewed 43 total applications, submitted nine candidates — four who identify as white, four as Black and one as Asian — on Sept. 1.

Regarding the selection, “We thought it was diverse across a number of different dimensions: race, age and perspective,” Sauls said, and the governor’s letter “came as a surprise.”

Crucial to the passage of the education reform bill was the creation of a “strong accountability system” to oversee the implementation of the legislation.

The seven-member panel will be tasked with that responsibility, as well as with holding school systems accountable for student outcomes.

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which became law in February after the state Legislature overrode Hogan’s 2020 veto, is a wide-ranging bill.

It represents a sweeping overhaul of Maryland’s education system, with measures such as higher teacher salaries, expanded access to pre-K and greater support for English learners.

“Without adequate representation on the [panel], it will be difficult to sufficiently meet the needs of the Latino students whom this legislation is intended to support,” Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo (D-Montgomery), the chair of the Latino Caucus, wrote to Hogan.

Fraser-Hidalgo also wrote that the Latino population has grown to nearly 12% in Maryland, according to the 2020 census, and that “Latino youth constitutes the largest proportion of English Language Learners.”

Sauls addressed the bipartisan blowback over the committee’s decision not to present any Latino nominees. It was “as diverse as we could get, given the pool we had, which was limited in terms of Latinx representation,” Sauls said.

Of the 43 applicants, only one identified as Hispanic and one as Afro-Latino, according to a Sept. 1 press release from the nominating committee.

Hogan also expressed concerns about the nominees’ geographic distribution.

“While many of the nominees selected are undoubtedly qualified individuals, there is a discernible lack of representation from the majority of jurisdictions in the State,” Hogan noted in his letter.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) also wrote a letter to Hogan, expressing her concern that none of the nominees live in Prince George’s County, the state’s second-most populous jurisdiction.

“While I appreciate that a representative from Prince George’s County Community College will be considered ... [the nominee] is not a county resident, nor does she interact with our public schools on a daily basis,” Alsobrooks wrote.

Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), who serves as vice-chair of the nominating committee, responded to that concern.

“I actually solicited from people in Prince George’s County who are very respected, and they chose not to do it,” Pinsky told Capital News Service.

As of mid-day Sept. 17, the committee had not reopened applications.

“Right now there have been no changes to that slate of nine,” Sauls said. “That’s all I know until I hear further from the attorney general.”

“Since we provide counsel to the committee, any advice we may provide would be privileged,” Raquel Coombs, a spokesperson for the Maryland attorney general’s office, wrote in an email to Capital News Service.