LARGO (Reform Sasscer) – History has a tendency to repeat itself in Prince George’s County.
This November, several state lawmakers announced a plan to reintroduce a $2.2 billion school construction and renovation spending bill in the upcoming legislative session. An identical measure failed in the Senate last session because of fiscal concerns.
The same lawmakers have failed to address a myriad of concerns involving the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) which are ongoing. CEO Dr. Monica Goldson and several union officials are engaged in conflicts of interests together with senior staff members led by chief of staff Christian Rhodes in “quid pro quo” deals.
The latest from Dr. Monica Goldson’s administration involves secretive union investments deals with Kirwan commission saga and a company in which the Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has a stake.
Hogan is the founder of the Annapolis-based Hogan Companies, which has completed more than $2 billion in real estate deals since 1985 and has continued to thrive since Hogan took office in 2015.
The governor has stepped aside from running the company and turned his assets over to be managed by a trust. Hogan Companies is now run by the governor’s younger brother, Timothy Hogan. The current Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) CEO Dr. Monica Goldson was in charge of the closure of many schools in the county. It is common knowledge that her becoming a CEO, a quid pro quo reward for dirty work in the midst of significant corruption, was a part of the “pay to play” deal that is a major issue to the public.
From drinking dirty water, asbestos, public corruption to embarrassing test scores, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) has repeatedly made international headlines for having one of the worst school systems in the country.
As a solution, the Kirwan Commission proposes that PGCPS double its share of education spending by 2030, which would require the Prince George’s County to generate an additional $360.9 million in annual revenue by that date. Unfortunately, this recommendation is not only fiscally infeasible but would fail to solve underlying inequality problems that further contribute to Prince George’s County’s education crisis due to a lack of accountability.
Maryland localities have two main sources of revenue: income taxes and property taxes. Since Prince George’s County already levies a state maximum local income tax of 3.2 percent, the primary way to generate additional revenue would be to increase its property tax rate. Five Maryland counties cap their property tax rates or receipts but are allowed to exceed their charter limitations on local property tax hikes for the purpose of generating education funds.
Prince George’s County currently levies a property tax of $2.248 per $100 of assessed value, a rate that is already more than twice as high as any jurisdiction in Maryland. To generate an additional $360.9 million, by how much would Prince George’s County’s property tax rate have to rise?
This fiscal year, Prince George’s County’s net property tax receipts are expected to total approximately $913 million. To generate an additional $360.9 million for its schools, the county would need to collect approximately 42 percent more in property taxes. This would require an increase in Prince George’s County’s property tax rate to about $4.12 ($2.248 x 1.39) per $100 of assessed value, roughly triple that of other Maryland counties.
This is a rough estimate, of course; elected officials must be hoping that the Prince George’s County’s tax base will grow enough to make the necessary tax hike somewhat smaller, except that’s counter to recent history: Since 2010, Prince George’s County total property tax base has fallen in reality, inflation-adjusted terms. Unless that trend is reversed, the necessary hike might be even greater than 42 percent; clearly, Kirwan is asking the Prince George’s County to spend money it does not have — despite clear evidence that money is not going to fix the Prince George’s County school problems without a proper oversight of all the activities going on involving the corrupt Union officials.
In fact, Prince George’s County is already the seventh most spendthrift school district among the 100-largest school districts in the country. Prince George’s County spent $15,560 per pupil in 2019, only trailing New York City, Boston, Baltimore City, Montgomery, and Howard. Yet less than 15 percent of Prince George’s County’s elementary and middle school children are proficient in math, and only 13 percent are proficient or advanced in English. This puts Prince George’s County at the bottom three in the nation and competing with Baltimore city, ahead of only Cleveland and Detroit.
There are, however, more evidence-based and cost-effective ways to help struggling children improve their learning outcomes without bankrupting Prince George’s County.
According to a study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, students at Maryland’s charter schools, especially those who are Black or Hispanic, outperform their counterparts in traditional public schools. The study found that Black charter students made math gains equivalent to 47 extra days of learning, and Hispanic charter students made reading gains equivalent to 77 additional days of learning. However, Charter schools in Maryland are poorly managed and the majority of them are engaged in embezzlement schemes.
Some 81 percent of Prince George’s County schools have student populations characterized by concentrated poverty; roughly 40 percent of students are eligible for reduced-price meals. This explains why Prince George’s County education reforms should be, first and foremost, strategically designed to address deep-rooted inequality problems and corruption driven by senior management. This can be done by working closely with victims of major corruption and whistle-blowers such as Josephat Mua who have been hurt deliberately by current CEO Dr. Monica Goldson and her minions. Expanding charter school options when public corruption is so high in Prince George’s County and many parts of Maryland is not the answer!
The investments may be legal, but the murky source of the cash and Monica Goldson’s lack of disclosure, in addition to other ethical issues surrounding her governance of the school system (some of which involve a breach of contract, conspiracy, advancement of fraud inter alia), make the entire situation look bad. One parent who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation told Reform Sasscer secretariat, “It will cause people to wonder whether she is being improperly influence.”
There are reports some despots connected to public corruption in Maryland are channeling their ill-gotten wealth through financial services conglomerate Goldman Sachs via the Cayman Islands and elsewhere by other means, making the original sources impossible to track. Neither Cadre nor Goldman is required to make the investors public and neither company has expressed an interest in doing so.
In any case, Prince George’s County as a District simply has no choice but to resist the Kirwan plan and the higher property tax rates necessary to fund it. This year, Prince George’s County saw its biggest population loss in a single year since 2001. Driving more taxpayers to the surrounding suburbs by taxing them even more aggressively is neither a viable nor advisable option for fixing the Prince George’s County’s broken school system which continues to get worse due to corruption at plain sight facilitated by officials working under color of law and corrupt union officials. It’s time to say NO to the despots.