Here comes Ben Jealous for governor
There’s a long line of Democratic politicians hoping to succeed Republican Larry Hogan as governor of Maryland. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III might join the race, and if he does, one thing is a given: He cannot run as the education candidate.
Former NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous stepped up in early June, hoping to gain traction for funding, name recognition and, of course, the Democratic Party’s mantle.
Other possible contenders include Rep. John K. Delaney, former state Attorney General Doug Gansler, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and state Sen. Richard Madaleno.
Education is always an election issue for voters, and it doesn’t matter whether the race is national, statewide or local.
What voters and school reformers want to know from candidates is how they plan to move forward.
Well, Ben Jealous didn’t stutter.
“When I was president of the NAACP, I learned just how quickly my neighbors here were prepared to move forward on civil rights,” Mr. Jealous said. “In one year we abolished the death penalty, we passed marriage equality, we passed the Dream Act. I’m running for governor because I believe we’re prepared to move just as quickly in moving forward on our education, on employment [and] on the environment while continuing to protect civil rights.
“I’m running for governor,” he said, “because I believe we can do much better by our kids right now.”
Mr. Baker can’t go there.
The Prince George’s County school system has been rocked by scandal after scandal after scandal over the past 18 months.
Most recently, school authorities asked the governor to investigate allegations of “widespread systemic corruption” to alter student credit counts and change students’ grades in order to “fraudulently boost the high school graduation rate from school year 2014 to present.”
The letter to the governor also said there is “clear and convincing evidence” of such fraud.
Prior to that, an estimated 630 teachers, bus drivers and other school employees complained of being rounded up in a witch hunt following a 2016 child pornography scandal. News media reported that school workers were being paid to report to work and then sit around playing cards. Others complained of a lack of due process.
For his part, Mr. Baker looked to his hand-chosen schools chief, Kevin Maxwell, to handle the backlash, which stemmed from school aide Deonte Carraway being indicted on 270 charges in a child sex abuse and pornography case at Woods Elementary in Glenarden in the winter of 2016.
Carraway remains jailed on local charges and is scheduled to be tried in Prince George’s in mid-July.
Carraway has pleaded guilty to 15 federal counts and is scheduled to be sentenced in August in neighboring Montgomery County, where Mr. Gansler first made a name for himself serving as chief prosecutor from 1999 to 2007.
There’s no way Mr. Baker can hold high his head for any public education pronouncement with a record like that.
Grade tampering involving hundreds of students. An overzealous attempt to clean a dirty house of your own making.
A see-hear-and-speak-no-evil approach to child safety.
For sure, the governor should heed the urgency of school authorities and probe what appears to be grade/credit inflation. And think about this: How could Mr. Baker explain away what happened in Western Maryland, Southern Maryland, the Eastern Shore or anywhere near the Beltway?
In the meantime, registered Republican, Democratic and independent voters in Maryland had better open their eyes sooner rather than later.
The likelihood of Mr. Jealous winning the Democratic primary is on the same horizon as Mr. Hogan seeking re-election and winning the Republican primary in 2018.
Also insightful is the fact that education reform is not something that easily rolls off Democrats’ tongues in a meaningful way.
Mr. Jealous, however, is not Maryland’s Old Line Democrat or even your typical Democrat. He’s, ahem, a Bernie Sanders Democrat.