School Boards Respond to Latest “Accountability” Proposals

The Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) is responding to calls from Governor Hogan to rewrite the 2017 Protect Our Schools Act and to create a state-level inspector general to take complaints on matters ranging from school facility conditions to school finance, procurement, and ethics.

MABE says it supports accountability, but that local school boards are already held accountable to their communities. And, according to MABE, the Protect Our Schools Act makes sense, because it is in line with federal law.

The Protect Our Students Act

The Governor announced he will submit emergency legislation – the Protect Our Students Act of 2018 – which will require academic performance to be counted as 80 percent of a school’s composite score, aligning Maryland with the national average.

The Accountability in Education Act

The Governor announced he will introduce the Accountability in Education Act of 2018 to create an Office of the State Education Investigator General, which will be an independent unit within the Maryland State Department of Education. The Investigator General will be selected by a commission consisting of appointees by the Senate President, Speaker of the House, and the governor, and will be charged with investigating complaints of unethical, unprofessional, or illegal conduct relating to procurement, education assets, graduation requirements, grading, education facilities, and school budgets.

According to a MABE press release:

MABE Supports Accountability

  • MABE supports strong accountability for school systems, both in terms of academic success for students and sound management of school finances and facilities.

Local Boards Are Already Held Accountable

  • Local boards are fundamentally locally accountable to their communities, through public meetings, public and transparent policy and budget debates and decisions, and local elections.
  • Accountability for student performance and success is the responsibility of each local board. However, this accountability is monitored, overseen, and enforced by the Maryland State Department of Education, through the actions of the State Superintendent and State Board of Education.
  • School boards are held accountable for sound financial management through multiple annual audits and routine, comprehensive legislative audits. School systems not complying with state requirements can have state funding withheld by the State Superintendent.

The Protect Our Schools Act Makes Sense

  • The Protect Our Schools Act of 2017 set guidelines for how Maryland measures student growth and school improvement under ESSA; and how the State Board can and should respond with resources to support improvements – but cannot order a school system to convert a school to a charter school, private school or voucher program.
  • The Protect Our Schools Act also requires that student performance results, called academic indicators, account for 65% of the overall accountability system. This is what ESSA intends when it requires that academic indicators are given “much greater weight” than any other measures of school performance.

School Employees Can Also Hold School Systems Accountable

  • The Public School Employee Whistleblower Protection Act (HB 1145) was enacted in 2017 in order to allow school employees to freely report illegal activities within their schools or school systems without fear of retaliation on the job.
  • The Whistleblower Protection Act increases school system accountability by protecting employees who report violations of law, regulation, or policy. The new law also protects any employee who objects to or refuses to participate in any activity, policy, or practice in violation of a law, rule, or regulation.
  • The new law protects any school employee who reports (1) an abuse of authority, gross mismanagement, or gross waste of money; (2) a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or (3) a violation of law. Finally, the employee must report the employer’s acts to a supervisor or administrator in writing and provide the employer with a reasonable opportunity to correct the situation.

Read the full press release for more information.