ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP)- Maryland Democrats and the state's teachers union on Tuesday criticized Gov. Larry Hogan's push to expand support for charter schools, attempting to link him with President Donald Trump and newly confirmed Education secretary Betsy DeVos.
Hogan aides countered that the Republican governor is a strong advocate for all forms of education and has the budgets to prove it.
Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, stood with Democrats at a news conference in the state capital about an hour before DeVos was confirmed thanks to a tie-breaking vote in the Senate by Vice President Mike Pence.
"With the governor yet again expanding taxpayer funding for private schools and proposing legislation to shift millions of dollars from traditional neighborhood public schools to charter schools, educators must work with the General Assembly to protect our schools from this joint Trump, DeVos, Hogan-privatization agenda," Weller said.
Shareese Churchill, a Hogan spokeswoman, highlighted the amount of money Hogan has steered toward education in his first three budget proposals.
"The governor believes that all children, no matter where they grow up, deserve a chance at the best education possible," Churchill said. "This administration will continue to be a strong advocate for all forms of education including traditional public, charter, non-public and innovative school options like P-TECH, which ultimately is in the best interest of our children."
DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor, has faced criticism from labor unions for her promotion of school choice. Democrats and teachers' organizations have accused her of seeking to dismantle public education and divert taxpayer money to charter schools and private school vouchers.
Democrats, who control Maryland's legislature, have been raising concerns about how the Trump administration could adversely affect the state in areas such as health care, immigration and education. Maryland Democrats also have been working to link Trump with their popular Republican governor, who didn't support Trump's candidacy in heavily Democratic Maryland.
Opponents of the governor's charter schools bill are describing it as "radical," because they contend it steers more taxpayer money to charters schools while reducing oversight.
"We will do what we can do as long as it adds value to education, as long as we respect our teachers and as long as we have accountability for the taxpayer dollar," said Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, adding that she would work with the governor on his proposal.
Doug Mayer, a Hogan spokesman, said the governor's charter schools proposal is based on policies Democratic local officials in Washington, D.C., have adopted.
"I'm sure their colleagues in Washington, D.C., would be shocked to learn how radical they are," Mayer said.
Democratic lawmakers also discussed a measure to prevent the state from interfering in local school district improvement plans for low-performing schools. Another bill would limit federal, state and locally mandated testing to 2 percent of the school year: 21.6 hours for elementary schools and 23.4 hours for high schools.