Dem gubernatorial candidates discuss education, criminal justice and health care at the Anne Arundel Co.

Six of nine Democratic gubernatorial candidates spoke at a forum hosted by the Anne Arundel County Democratic Party in Gambrills on Thursday evening.

Former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain, former administration official Clinton Jon Baron, former US Secretary of Education John King, former Prince George County executive Rushern L. Baker III , entrepreneur Michael Rosenbaum and controller Peter VR Franchot (R) discuss their political positions at New Hope Faith Community Church on Thursday evening. (Courtesy Maryland Matters / Hannah Gaskill)

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Six of nine Democratic gubernatorial candidates spoke at a forum hosted by the Anne Arundel County Democratic Party in Gambrills on Thursday evening.

Former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain, former Clinton administration official Jon Baron, former Secretary of the US Department of Education John King, former Prince George County executive Rushern L. Baker III, entrepreneur Michael Rosenbaum and Maryland comptroller Peter VR Franchot (D) gathered at New Hope Faith Community Church to sell their constituents their positions on education, criminal justice, health care and economic reform policy.

Education policy

All applicants were asked what they would do to ensure that the Kirwan Commission Blueprint for Future Maryland Education Reform Policy “is faithfully implemented.”

Franchot and King were also asked about their opinion on standardized testing.

Francois: The comptroller is determined to eliminate standardized testing – or at least limit it in Maryland classrooms as much as federal law allows.

“We have a fetish for standardized testing in Maryland,” Franchot told forum moderators.

On the contrary, Franchot, who opposed the education reform legislation of the Master Plan for Maryland, is placing his bets on a change in the school curriculum that includes teacher membership and offers students ” skills and knowledge about the modern economy ”.

Rosenbaum: Rosenbaum called Maryland’s Blueprint for the Future of “the floor, not the goal” and said the state must “rely” not only on children who attend college, but also on those who are in college. enter the labor market directly.

“We have to start with the Blueprint and build from there,” he said.

Baker: Baker stressed the need to ensure that funding is available to enact reform policies, as well as the enveloping services needed to enact program change.

King: Former US Secretary of Education said he was “hopeful” of what the Blueprint for the Future of Maryland might mean for education in the state’s most disadvantaged schools .

King said he sees standardized testing as a tool the federal government uses to ensure transparency in the education system and to ensure that vulnerable populations, such as children who speak English as a second language, do not get lost. in the reshuffle.

“What the federal government is looking for is to make sure we are serving all of our students well and being honest about whether or not we are serving our English learners, serving our students of color, serving our low income students.” King said. “So the type of assessment is less of the problem and more of making sure we’re transparent about the equity gaps in our schools. “

Baron: Baron stressed the need to ensure that appropriate funding to implement the Master Plan is available, but also pushed for the idea that the state should implement educational programs that have shown positive results elsewhere, such as basic tutoring services and vocational training.

Jain: Rather than specifically addressing the Master Plan reforms, Jain pointed to “tangible next steps” the state could take in the short term, such as canceling student debt for teachers, building schools in schools. low-income areas, investment in science, technology, engineering and math programs. for middle school students and free public transport to ensure that it is not a problem for children to get to school.

Police reform

Candidates were asked about their thoughts on the broad police reform legislation passed by the General Assembly in the 2021 legislative session and what they think about it not eliminating immunity qualified for state and municipal employees.

Under current Maryland law, state employees – including law enforcement agencies – are immune from civil liability for transgressions that violate the rights of others if the alleged action between within the scope of their job description and was objectively reasonable, or committed without malicious intent or gross negligence.

Francois: The comptroller pointed to community policing, or what he described as familiarity between residents and duty officers, as a response to the problems of criminal justice reform. He did not address qualified immunity.

Rosenbaum: For Rosenbaum, reducing crime lies in economic opportunity and moving away from the status quo of using “incarceration as the only strategy” to deter crime.

“It’s crazy. It obviously doesn’t work,” Rosenbaum said. “We keep spending more money and we’re not more fair and we’re not more secure.”

“The reality is that unless we provide a path of economic security for everyone, we will not be safe,” he continued.

Baker: Baker has said he has been against qualified immunity since he was in the legislature nearly two decades ago.

The former Prince George County executive, who served in the House of Delegates for nine years, said the police reform agenda passed in the 2021 session is good, but the real reform is happening there where the boots are on the ground.

“I think what they have done in the state is great – applauded – but most of the problems are at the local level,” Baker said. “If you don’t work with the local police department … then you don’t hit where all the problems are. [are], therefore, the state, the counties and the city must work together.

King: King said the answer lies not just in police reform, but in how the state approaches public safety as a whole.

“We are now asking the criminal justice system to respond to drug addiction rather than trying to treat people; we call on the criminal justice system to respond to trauma rather than providing mental health services or adequate psychiatric beds in the state; we asked the police to deal with someone with a mental health crisis, which really should be addressed with a social worker or counselor, ”King said. “We need to rethink our approach.

Baron: Barron said he supported the reform legislation passed this year, but suggested the state focus on proven training policy and strategies that have proven effective in other jurisdictions.

Jain: Jain has held firm in his stance against qualified immunity.

“It doesn’t make sense to be immune if you’re doing a bad job. It’s that clear and simple,” he said. “But I think it goes beyond that.”

Jain suggested that reform is best done holistically rather than taking a “piecemeal” approach. For him, this means adopting policies that would abolish the cash bond, deploying mental health professionals rather than the police for certain emergency calls, ending the school resource officer program in public schools, and legalizing the cannabis and clear criminal records for those who spent time behind bars during its ban.

“I think it’s not just about making sure that those who commit illegal actions – killing blacks and browns as if it were a targeted practice – are held accountable, but times, it’s about looking at the whole system in a holistic and sustainable way, ”Jain said. . “This is how we can stop having these same problems that… I’m sick of hearing about every electoral cycle.”

Health care

Candidates were asked if they were in favor of a single-payer health care system.

Francois: Although he did not directly address the issue of single-payer health care, the Monitor expressed a desire to “significantly” expand Medicaid coverage.

Rosenbaum: Rosenbaum said policymakers are having the wrong conversation: Instead of continually tweaking the same policy to make things better “here and there”, the entrepreneur has focused on economic security.

“When we think of economic security, the amount of money we spend on health care actually gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves, ‘How do we achieve economic security for everyone?’ because when I have a stable job, I have a roof over my head, I have a refrigerator, I have air conditioning, I have a primary care doctor, it makes us healthier ” , did he declare.

Baker: In short, yes, Baker supports a single payer healthcare system.

“I supported him when I was a legislator. I support him now as part of our platform, ”he said.

King: King said the issue of a single-payer health care system should be left to the federal government and the state should focus on more immediate solutions, such as ensuring undocumented residents are not denied medical treatment. health care due to insecurity, or tackling deep-rooted racial disparities in medicine.

Baron: No, Baron does not support a single payer system and believes the Affordable Care Act “has worked very well in Maryland.”

For Baron, the real problem is the cost.

“What we need in healthcare [is] to scale up interventions – innovations in health care delivery – that have been tested and shown to improve health and reduce costs, ”he said.

Jain: A cancer survivor who works at a nonprofit health care organization, Jain worked on Affordable Care Act policy during his tenure with the Obama administration, he said. But he, like King, said he would shift his focus to more immediate state-level solutions, like investing to expand access to health care in underserved communities, looking at food insecurity throughout the state, treating the opioid epidemic as a health crisis rather than a criminal justice issue, and enshrining access to abortion in the state constitution.

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