The Truth vs. Rushern Baker
Last week, Prince George’s County Executive and wannabe Maryland Governor, Rushern L. Baker, III, responded to the reaction of Governor Hogan and others in the wake of disturbing revelations in the audit of Prince George’s County public schools. The audit revealed that the county school system could not verify the propriety of grade changes for nearly a quarter of the students sampled. More disturbingly, the audit also found that more than 40% of the graduates studied had more than 10 unlawful absences.
Baker responded on WBAL’s C4 show stating:
“You do realize, no other jurisdiction, just think about it, has gotten an audit like this, except for, where’s the only other place Baltimore City… striking isn’t it, that there the only place that has had this intensive audit, not in Montgomery County, not in Harford County, not in Anne Arundel County. So does that mean grades aren’t being inflated elsewhere?”
A textbook example of deflection, classic mendacity with just the hint of the race card being played for good measure. Of course, none of it deals directly with the failures of the school system Baker’s brags about and over which he had supervision. No denial of the findings in the report nor any indication of how this would be Governor is going to address the systemic failures that led to these findings.
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Worse yet, the statement, and its implications, are just not true.
The entire Prince George’s County delegation to the House of Delegates (all Democrats) and four Prince George’s County School Board members, nearly all of them African American, asked the Governor to request the State Board of Education to investigate.
Doubling down on his prevarication, Baker also stated that the Governor should have directed the State Board of Education to look into grade inflation and tampering in all counties while ignoring that, unlike his own county, no school board members and delegations from other counties are asking for an investigation into grade tampering.
But the train of lies didn’t end there. Baker told C4 that Governor Hogan himself selected the firm that audited PG County schools. That is easily proven as the falsehood it is.
When the issues was raised before the Board of Public Works the documented agenda item (shown below) clearly stated that the Maryland State Department of Education—a department independent from the executive branch selected the auditor—at the request of the Governor and the Chief Executive Officer of the Prince George’s County School System to wit: Baker’s hand picked superintendent, Kevin Maxwell.
Another false talking point given by Baker was his demand for accountability from his hand-picked superintendent Dr. Maxwell. He told C4
“We’re holding Dr. Maxwell and his team accountable, which is why we’ve said listen, now that we’ve gotten this information, you can’t say you didn’t know, because before Dr. Maxwell could say I never knew these were going on, well now we know and we want them corrected. “
That’s convenient for Baker to say, after the fact.
However, at the time of the initial allegations, Baker and Maxwell opposed an audit. If the had their way no audit would have been conducted and the public would not have been aware of the serious problems inside the Prince George’s County Public School System.
Remember, Baker pushed for and won more control of the county school board through direct appointments, including the chair and hiring of the superintendent. Both Maxwell and board chairman Segun Eubanks—Baker’s former brother-in-law—report directly to Baker.
As county school board member Edward Burroughs, testified to at the Board of Public Works, that— Maxwell was opposed to the independent audit right up until the state board of education was set to approve moving forward with an audit.
Governor Hogan was exactly right when he said they are either corrupt or incompetent.
Previewing what is sure to be a campaign theme, Baker said:
“The other problem we have is, if you really care about us, there are two things you could do right away, one is you could help us with school funding for construction for Baltimore County, Prince George’s County, Montgomery County. Two, the money that’s been cut from our education system, you could put back in there because that will help make sure…”
Again, demonstrably false.
The Governor has helped Prince George’s County with school construction to the tune of $150 million over the last three fiscal years, according to state school construction data. Prince George’s, along with Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Montgomery County, are consistently the jurisdictions that receive the most annual state school construction funding. These allocations do not include the separate $1 billion construction program for Baltimore City Public Schools.
Last year Prince George’s was second only to Montgomery County in state school construction allocations. Over the last eight years Prince George’s County has received $365 million for school construction, second only to Baltimore City and Montgomery County.
As for the “the money that’s been cut form our education system” canard, we have debunked that myth on several occasions. However, it bears repeating that Governor Hogan has provided record operating funds for state education in every budget, he has submitted to the legislature.
If Baker is looking for the people who cut state education funding, he should ask his former colleagues in the legislature, (especially his primary opponent Rich Madaleno) who cut $2.3 billion in education funding.
Rushern Baker appears to be the candidate around whom the Maryland Democratic establishment is coalescing. Baker knows his opposition and callow response to the school system audit is a distinct liability, and his avalanche of lies on the issue proves it.