Here comes Ben Jeal­ous for gov­er­nor

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - ● Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­ DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS

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.

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