- Fact and fiction on the airwaves,
- Maryland Governor's Race 2010,
Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley views education as the trump card in his campaign against former governor Bob Ehrlich. Voters may trust the Republican with the economy and the state budget, but the edge on education clearly goes to the incumbent.
To further his advantage on this key issue, O'Malley this week released three TV ads on education. The meatiest of the three contrasts his education record with Ehrlich's. Did the incumbent do his homework?
"Even in good times, Bob Ehrlich did not make education a priority." In Ehrlich's four years as governor, he spent more on K-12 education than any governor before him. O'Malley then spent more than Ehrlich did.
The vast majority of this spending came from the Thornton Education bill the General Assembly passed in 2002, which phased in a mandated series of funding hikes, eventually increasing spending by $1.3 billion a year.
Neither Ehrlich nor O'Malley was in state government when Thornton passed, so it's difficult for either one to claim credit.
Where O'Malley surpassed Ehrlich was in funding the geographic cost-of-education index, which is meant to deliver extra state aid to areas where the cost of educating students is higher (Most of the money goes to Montgomery County, Prince George's County and Baltimore City). Unlike the rest of the Thornton money, the additional geographic funds aren't mandatory.
Ehrlich never funded the index — he recently dismissed it as a "political ploy." O'Malley failed to fund it in his first year, then funded 60 percent of the the next year. He's maxed it out the past two years.
"He increased college tuition by 40 percent." Under Ehrlich, in-state undergraduate tuition at University System of Maryland colleges and universities increased 40 percent.
Ehrlich backers are fond of saying that the Board of Regents, not the governor, is responsible for setting tuition. But the regents, who are appointed by the governor, are always acting in response to what the governor does. When O'Malley gave them the funding to keep tuition down, they did. When Ehrlich cut state funding, they increased tuition.
"He cut school construction by $200 million." A February 15, 2004 Washington Post article says the following:
In 2002, then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) earmarked $220 million for school construction. But Ehrlich, facing a budget deficit, allocated $116 million the following year and $100 million for the next.
This isn't quite cutting funding for school construction by $200 million. It's cutting it by $104 million one year, and then cutting it by $16 million the next. The O'Malley campaign hasn't responded to a request for comment on this question.
Team O'Malley responded with some detailed documents. Over his four years, Glendening spent $992 million on school construction. Ehrlich only proposed spending $614 million, and the legislature allocated $815 million. That's a $177 million gap between what was actually spent, and a $378 million gap between what the two proposed.
"And Ehrlich voted to eliminate the Department of Education while serving in Congress." We're having trouble tracking down the exact vote the campaign is referencing here, but this was also an issue in Ehrlich's 2002 campaign against Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. From a Sept. 18, 2002 Post story:
[Ehrlich spokesman Paul] Schurick conceded that Ehrlich voted to eliminate the federal Department of Education, but he argued that the 1996 proposal would have directed the money into state block grants, providing "less money for bureaucrats and more money for classrooms and teachers."
"But Martin O'Malley, even in toughest of times, has made record investments in public schools ... " See above. O'Malley invested more in K-12 education than any other governor, but most of that money was spending mandated by legislation passed before he became governor. He did go above-and-beyond Ehrlich by funding the geographic cost of education index.
"... new school construction ..." Yep. O'Malley and the state legislature spent $1.3 billion on school construction during his first term, and the governor has promised to spend another $1 billion during the next four years.
"... and O'Malley froze college tuition four years in a row." This statement has the same chicken-and-the-egg problem with the regents as the one about Ehrlich's tuition hikes. It also has another one: O'Malley only froze tuition three years in a row, before increasing it three percent for this academic year.
The first year of the tuition freeze occurred under Ehrlich. He opposed the idea at first, but went along with it after the state legislature found additional money to fund it.
Sigh. These ads keep leaning towards the true side of things, and The Facts Machine is getting antsy to bust someone for a falsehood. Perhaps these campaigns live in fear of a bad rating from the Facts Machine.
Whatever the case, this ad receives another Mostly On Point.