Don’t blame Mr. Ho­gan

The gov­er­nor is right to call out his state’s weak­ened school ac­count­abil­ity plan.

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MARY­LAND GOV. Larry Ho­gan’s (R) re­fusal to en­dorse the state’s plan for a new sys­tem of school ac­count­abil­ity could, crit­ics say, jeop­ar­dize mil­lions of dol­lars in fed­eral ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing. No doubt there is such a risk. But don’t blame Mr. Ho­gan. The fault lies with Demo­cratic law­mak­ers who rammed through leg­is­la­tion that gut­ted the state school board’s au­thor­ity to set rig­or­ous stan­dards and spur school im­prove­ment. Mr. Ho­gan should be ap­plauded for not go­ing along with this sham. We hope Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos fol­lows suit and sends Mary­land back to the draw­ing board.

Mary­land is among more than 30 states set next week to turn in ac­count­abil­ity plans un­der the Every Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act. Sub­mit­ting a plan is a con­di­tion for con­tin­u­ing to re­ceive fed­eral ed­u­ca­tion aid. In a let­ter to Ms. DeVos, Mr. Ho­gan ex­plained that the Mary­land Board of Ed­u­ca­tion could not craft an ad­e­quate plan un­der the “im­pos­si­ble cir­cum­stances” im­posed by a state law en­acted this year over Mr. Ho­gan’s veto and the ob­jec­tions of the school board. The Pro­tect Our Schools Act was aptly named, as state school board mem­ber Ch­ester E. Finn Jr. ob­served, be­cause “it does noth­ing to pro­tect needy, ill-ed­u­cated chil­dren.” It di­min­ishes fo­cus on real aca­demic achieve­ment, bans the use of A-to-F let­ter grad­ing sys­tems for schools and pre­vents the state from tak­ing cer­tain ac­tions to im­prove ha­bit­u­ally low-per­form­ing schools.

Mr. Ho­gan’s sig­na­ture is not re­quired for state ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials to send the plan to the fed­eral Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment for re­view and ap­proval, but its ab­sence sends a pow­er­ful sig­nal that, along with the re­fusal of Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker (R) to en­dorse his state’s plan, sets up some­thing of a dilemma for Ms. DeVos. In re­plac­ing No Child Left Be­hind with Every Stu­dent Suc­ceeds, Congress in­ten­tion­ally gave states in­creased flex­i­bil­ity. When fed­eral ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials ear­lier this year raised ob­jec­tions to plans sub­mit­ted by some states, there was push­back — in­clud­ing from Congress — that the depart­ment was un­der­min­ing the law’s aim of let­ting the states call the shots. The re­sult, as Ed­u­ca­tion Week re­ported, was “fast and fu­ri­ous” ap­proval for 13 states and the Dis­trict, with only slight mod­i­fi­ca­tions in re­sponse to depart­ment feed­back.

But now two governors — both Repub­li­cans — have taken high-pro­file po­si­tions on the in­ad­e­quacy of their states’ plans in serv­ing the ed­u­ca­tional in­ter­ests of chil­dren. True, Congress put states in the driver’s seat in mea­sur­ing per­for­mance and for­mu­lat­ing reme­dies. But flex­i­bil­ity doesn’t have to stretch as far as un­der­min­ing crit­i­cal ac­count­abil­ity sys­tems with weak­ened and mean­ing­less stan­dards. Ms. DeVos has a chance to make that clear.

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