Gov. Larry Hogan ignited a firestorm of criticism for referring to teachers union lobbyists as “thugs” on Facebook after announcing a historic increase in public school funding for Maryland.
Many lashed out at Hogan, characterizing the comment as a condemnation of teachers in general. Hogan announced his “record” $6.3 billion increase in funding for Maryland public schools on Facebook Friday. The criticism stems from the fact Hogan is saving, not spending, $25 million that could go towards two education programs, mostly focused on funding teacher pensions in localities throughout the state, reports The Washington Post.
Hogan’s funding of public schools is a 3.95 percent increase over funding levels under his predecessor.
Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Hogan, told The Washington Post that the governor was not disparaging teachers, but criticizing “paid political operatives and lobbyists” who have “waged a full-time campaign dedicated to misinforming Marylanders about Governor Hogan’s record of historic funding in K-12 education.”
Hogan responded to a critic on Facebook Friday after the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) criticized Hogan for withholding funds and called on him to withhold funds for private schools. (RELATED: Maryland Heroin Epidemic Prompts Rare Bipartisan Backing Of Criminal Justice Reform)
“We provided record funding for education two years in a row and protected your pensions,” Hogan wrote on Facebook. “Don’t believe this phony ‘cut’ propaganda from the union thugs.”
Many likened his comment to Chris Christie’s tough stance on unions in New Jersey while others said his “stereotype” of teachers reminded them of language used by presidential candidate Donald Trump, who Hogan refuses to support.
The $25 million in question is part of $80 million in state funds the state legislature barred Hogan from placing in the state reserve fund. Legislators wanted to spend the money on various programs, including for pension funding and other initiatives supported by the governor, reports The Baltimore Sun.
Lawmakers required Hogan to spend all of the $80 million if he wanted to use any of the funds. Under the “all or nothing” directive from the General Assembly, Hogan opted not to spend any of the $80 million, including the $25 million outlined for education programs.
“Using the word [thug] is a stereotype of how we view teachers who are active and engaged in their union,” Chris Lloyd, president of the Montgomery County Teachers Union, told The Washington Post. “It is his right to advocate for what he thinks is right and it is our right to do the same, but we should never resort to name calling.”
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