Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, a potential gubernatorial challenger, should fire his handpicked schools chief over a diploma scandal in the district.
Hogan (R), who has long been critical of Baker’s response to the scandal, said the county executive needs get rid of schools chief executive Kevin Maxwell and assume responsibility for the grade-tampering that resulted in an inflated number of high school graduates in the state’s second-largest school system.
“This saga has gone on for far too long,” Hogan said Wednesday in response to a question during a news conference on school safety. “Enough is enough. . . . In my opinion, it should have happened a long time ago. But I’ll say it today — the county executive needs to fire Kevin Maxwell.”
Baker (D), who is ahead of his six primary rivals in the polls but lags well behind Hogan, scoffed at the governor’s suggestion.
“I listen to students and parents in Prince George’s County, and the last I checked, the governor was neither of those,” Baker said. “I view his comments as purely political, and I don’t take them seriously at all.”
Baker has touted improved test scores and graduation rates as one of his significant accomplishments. His record on education seems likely to become a major issue during the gubernatorial campaign.
A state investigation found in November that grades were changed days before graduation for nearly 5,500 students during the past two years. On Tuesday, the Maryland State Board of Education took the unusual step of assigning a full-time employee to monitor the county’s efforts to address the scandal. It also ordered a second audit to ensure that the problems are resolved.
Baker said board members should take it upon themselves to monitor the county’s actions. “That’s their job,” he said.
Several elected county school board members, along with the county branch of the NAACP, also have called for Maxwell’s ouster.
Baker asked for partial control of the troubled school system in 2013, a move that gave him the authority to select the schools chief and appoint several members to a newly created hybrid board. But it is not clear whether he would have the authority to fire Maxwell outright.
The Prince George’s County Educators’ Association last week voted a lack of confidence in the school board’s current structure and asked the state legislature to strip Baker of the power to appoint members. A bill to repeal Baker’s schools takeover is pending in the General Assembly.