They had a heated exchange on education. Both candidates implied that charter schools are a solution to the problem of poor performing inner city schools. There is no empirical data to support that conclusion.
O’Malley touted doubling the number of charter schools in Maryland. He proudly declared that Maryland was one of only 10 states to win a “Road to the Top” grant from the federal government. O’Malley claimed that he plans to use the grant funds to track students’ education and to encourage skilled teachers to work in problem schools.
Ehrlich criticized O'Malley for not allowing eleven failing Baltimore public schools “to go charter or private vendor” in 2006. Ehrlich said, "Your color, your ethnicity, your background, your race, what you look like should not be a predictor of the quality of education you receive." That sounds great. But, what did Ehrlich actually do when he was governor to improve Baltimore City and Prince George's County public schools?
In response to Ehrlich, O'Malley asserted that he recruited the SEED charter school to come to Baltimore. O'Malley said that his opposition “was not about protecting a monopoly. It was about protecting progress.” O'Malley claims that he has cut the achievement gap between black students and white students in half. O'Malley challenged Ehrlich for "speaking in codes" and for not mentioning the progress that students are making.
O’Malley asserted that 10 years ago not one grade in Baltimore city public schools scored majority proficient in reading and math. Today, according O’Malley, first through eighth grade students are scoring majority proficient in reading and math. O'Malley said, "I will put the progress in the city of Baltimore and our rate of improvement up against any kids in any major city in America." O’Malley concluded, “We move forward as a state. We move forward together and we move forward as a people.”
Ehrlich responded by asserting that at some Baltimore schools 85 percent of students do not graduate. Ehrlich asserted some Baltimore public schools have pass rates as low as 9 to 12 percent. O’Malley retorted, “And you would cut their funding if you are elected.”
In reply to O'Malley comments, Ehrlich mentioned that many innocent African Americans were wrongfully arrested in Baltimore when O'Malley was mayor. In June 2010, the ACLU and the Baltimore Branch NAACP settled the lawsuit against the city challenging the Police Department’s pattern of improper arrests. According to Ehrlich, 1 in 8 people were arrested in Baltimore when O'Malley was mayor. Political motivation aside, that issue is significant. Unfortunately, O'Malley failed to provide a substantive response. O'Malley must do more to address that issue and other concerns of the African American community.
On the issue of immigration, both candidates emphasized that it is the federal government's responsibility to address the problem of illegal immigration. Ehrlich voiced his opposition to CASA of Maryland. He claimed that CASA is using tax dollars to aid illegal activity. On the other hand, O'Malley stressed the need to offer a path to citizenship for undocumented people living in this country.
Ehrlich described the different groups that immigrated to America and stated that "some of us were forced here in slavery." O'Malley slammed Ehrlich phony celebration of diversity by reminding Ehrlich of his past statements rejecting multiculturalism as "bunk" or "crap". The Baltimore Sun reported the following in 2004:
"The concept of multiculturalism is "bunk" and "damaging to the society," Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said , "Once you get into this multicultural crap, this bunk, that some folks are teaching in our college campuses and other places, you run into a problem," Ehrlich, a Republican, said during an appearance on WBAL radio Thursday. "There is no such thing as a multicultural society that can sustain itself, in my view, and I think history teaches us this lesson."
O'Malley said, "We are a multicultural people and a multicultural nation. We should not blame new Americans for the problems that our country is going through."
In light of Ehrlich's statements against multiculturalism and his dirty tricks against the African American community during the 2006 election, it is difficult to take Ehrlich's new found concern for the black community seriously.
Did you watch the debate? Which candidate do you support and why?