Friday, February 24, 2012

WAPO Blasts Guv on Teacher Pensions

The Washington Post editors laid into Governor Martin O’Malley and Senate President Mike Miller for their proposal to shift half of the costs of teacher pensions from the state to the counties. They headlined the editorial “The Buck Stops Nowhere.”

The paper acknowledges the problem, calling the states current system for funding teacher pensions as being “rife with perverse incentives.”

Maryland’s scheme is the product of decades of improvisation, fiscal mismanagement and political pandering. Not surprisingly, it is virtually unique among states — and almost uniquely senseless.”

It’s really worth reading if you have any interest at all in how the state is being run and by whom. I also note that this opinion is coming from The Washington Post, what some might consider a bastion of Democratic ideology.

That’s not to say that the Dems are all lined up behind their governor either, notably a few county executives, including our own. Ken Ulman was front and center in this article by Michael Dresser in The Sun, complete with a shot of him gripping the lectern as he addressed the press in Annapolis.

"This puts a potentially devastating squeeze on local government," said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, a Democrat. "Find the $239 million somewhere else in the budget."

Lindsey McPherson in her Political Notebook column in Explore Howard, wrote the HoCo loco Dems  are “are standing behind Ulman.”

This one actually crosses party lines. If the guv and the Senate president have their way, Howard County will take a $17 million hit on the roughly 40% of the county budget that doesn't go to the schools. That impacts everything from parks to police.

As the Post editorial notes ““The main problem with the governor’s plan is that it sticks counties with a heavy bill but gives them no power to control costs. After all, school boards, not counties, negotiate teachers’ contracts. And state law forbids counties from cutting funding for schools unless enrollment shrinks.”


It’s a mess and needs to be fixed, that much all can agree on. To do so will require real leadership and political guts, to go for the big fix. That means all parties will need to share a little pain; the state, the counties and most importantly, the unions and the school boards. It may also require a reexamination of state law.

I wonder if anyone in Annapolis has the cojones to pull that off.
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