Herb McMillan: Maryland is subsidizing education problems and taxing you to do it

OpEd Maryland Edu taxing youArtboard 1

This article written by Herb McMillan was first published in the Capital Gazette. Click here to see it.

“In too many instances, Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.”

Ronald Reagan

It’s half-time at the General Assembly, and an old sportscaster like Ronald Reagan would be disappointed, but not surprised, to report that solving problems in Maryland is losing to taxing you to subsidize them. Again.

Using the same “progressive” playbook liberals have used to subsidize Maryland’s education problems for the last 20 years, Democrats in the House of Delegates voted down party lines last week to do more of the same. They passed the Kirwan Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, 96-41.

During the debate, Del. Alonzo Washington, D-Prince George’s, said Kirwan was, “A world-class bill.” He’s right about that. The taxpayers “bill” for Kirwan is $32 billion more in education spending over 10 years, and it ultimately adds $4 billion annually to our education budget. Washington also claimed the legislation, “Was not throwing money at a problem.”

He’s wrong about that. It’s definitely throwing money at a problem. In fact, it’s throwing so much money at a problem liberals haven’t been able to figure out what and how many new taxes you’ll pay to fund it. More on that later; but first, what “education reforms” are our children getting in return for their parents’ $32 billion tax increase?

None really. Kirwan’s just more of the same with a higher price tag. Even the liberal Washington Post editorialized that, “The Kirwan Commission’s central claim that Maryland has underinvested in schools is undermined by figures showing that in 2017, the most recent year for which national data is available, Maryland spent 22% more on a per pupil basis and paid its teachers 28% more than the national average.”

The Post then chastised the commission for, “Pulling its punches in coming up with solutions, falling back instead on the premise that the more you spend on education, the better the outcome.“

That’s a failed premise. It’s obvious what we’re doing in K-12 education isn’t working for most students. Despite a 40% increase in education spending since 2003, fewer than 40% of Maryland high school graduates can read at a tenth-grade level, and we still have an achievement gap. Rather than simply spending more, perhaps we should spend more wisely.

For example, why not find ways to reward the most effective teachers, and incentivize them to work in the schools where they are most needed? Kirwan doesn’t. The late Maryland House Speaker Mike Busch and I both supported a program like this at Annapolis High, and it worked. Why not fund it on a statewide basis? Why not permit parents to withdraw their children from schools ranked as “failed” (one star), and allow them to attend better schools?

Why not legally limit class size in all K-12 classrooms? Real reforms like these were proposed by Republican delegates, and all of them were defeated in party-line votes.

So exactly how will liberal legislators pay to subsidize our education problems for the next 10 years? They don’t know. Last week, Del. Eric Luedtke’s $2.9 billion sales tax on services was defeated, just before the still unfunded $32 billion Kirwan spending bill passed. Now Democrats have cobbled together a $700 million package of taxes on digital downloads, combined corporate tax reporting, tobacco, luxury services, and digital advertising.

Luedtke claims this $700 million tax package will fund Kirwan through fiscal year 26, but he’s wrong. Kirwan’s fiscal note shows the additional $700 million will be spent by FY23 (2022). Democrats will then need to increase your taxes by another $2 billion to fund Kirwan. As Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said, “After promising to fully fund Kirwan, lawmakers are years late and still billions short. Now they plan to force through all of the spending, some of the taxes, and none of the accountability.”

Exactly. Yet Maryland liberals have been doing this, particularly with respect to education, for years. The question is, how much longer can we afford to simply keep subsidizing our education failures, and taxing you more to do it, instead of solving them? Because they’re our children – and it’s your money.

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