The A.C.L.U. and Education Follies: Act II

Fresh from its advocacy of the Thornton Plan, which exploded current expense spending for schools in the name of a supposed constitutional imperative, the A.C.L.U. now seeks to duplicate this experience with school capital spending.
It will be recalled that the A.C.L.U. brought a lawsuit, Bradford v. Board of Education, asserting that the education clause of the state constitution required the legislature to appropriate what advocacy groups regarded as ‘adequate’ funding for the State’s schools. After a trial court accepted this claim and allowed the suit to go forward, in a decision which was never reviewed on the merits by the Court of Appeals, the case was “settled”by the Glendening administration and its allied Attorney General’s office first with the reorganization of the Baltimore City system and then with the highly extravagant Thornton plan, the ultimate unfunded mandate, productive of today’s structural state deficit. When the plaintiffs then went to the trial court for a second helping, they obtained another opinion vindicating their claims, carefully couched in a form rendering it unappealable. When that opinion evoked serious opposition in the form of an appeal, the Court of Appeals sharply rebuked the Circuit Court for issuing what amounted to a propaganda leaflet rather than a reviewable judgment. Bradford v. City of Baltimore, 387 Md. 353, 388 n.12 (2005 ). The road to further judicially ordained increases for current spending now being blocked, both by appellate recalcitrance and the State’s budget crisis, the A.C.L.U. now seeks to duplicate its earlier feat by exploding the schools’ capital budgets.
The same modus operandi is being followed, with the assistance of plaintiff’s counsel in Bradford. A ‘study’ is issued, purporting to demonstrate that billions-literally billions-are needed to provide buildings in which Baltimore City students can learn. Air conditioning is now a natural right of man, although earlier generations of Baltimore students and legions of students in Asia performed well without it. Some articles by obscure social scientists and some dicta by courts in other states, notably New Jersey, whose schools are by far the most extravagant in the country, are cited in support of the supposed imperative. The press, in the form of the Baltimore Sun’s egregious education correspondent, Liz Bowie, is enlisted to proclaim that Thornton was brilliantly successful and that thanks to it, Maryland schools are now “number one

Posted in: Education, News Series