Greatest Education Governor Martin O’Malley’s Speech
Delivered at the 2010 Representative Assembly
Thank you, Maryland.
Mr. President, thank you very, very much.
President Van Roekel, Vice-President Eskelsen, Secretary-Treasurer Pringle, Executive Director John Wilson, and to all of you, thank you so much for your national leadership in these important times and for what you do for the education of our children, and therefore, for the future of our country. And thank you for this very gracious honor of the public school system that we have built and defended through the toughest of times in the great state of Maryland.
I have a little announcement I wanted to share with some of you, for all of you, because you may know this individual.
President Van Roekel, you mentioned the independent labor board now put into place after 20 years of trying. Until this year, our state school board was actually the entity that settled disputes and impasses, but finally this year, we created an independent state labor board to perform these functions, and I wanted to thank you for loaning us one of your best to the state of Maryland to serve on our state public school labor relations board — your own general counsel, Bob Chanin, has agreed to do that.
So, Bob, thank you also from the bottom of our hearts for serving on that Board.
Your recognition of Maryland's progress is really the recognition of a tremendous amount of teamwork — teamwork between educators and parents and moms and dads and teachers, and also the representatives our teachers. And I want to acknowledge Team Maryland, MCSEA President Clara Floyd, Vice-President Betty Weller, Executive Director David Helfman, and all of the men and women who you hear cheering in the back from the Maryland State Education Association.
I really want to thank you for all for what you have done in the toughest of times.
The thing I love best about the people that I have the honor to represent, the people of Maryland, is we don't make excuses, we make progress. And that's what we have done with educator and teachers working together with moms and dads, parents and kids. We have made progress, because we know that improving public education actually creates jobs and greater opportunities for all. We, this year, have made record investments in K-12 education, and we are proud of it. We need to continue to do it.
And I must add that sustaining that record level of funding would only have been possible these last couple of years because of the President's leadership, President Obama, and the Recovery and Reinvestment Act. But we have not squandered that investment. We have made progress. We have increased over the last four years by 65 percent.
Mr. President, the number of our students who are taking college-level courses — AP courses in science, technology, engineering and math — we are the only state to have gone four years in a row without a penny's increase in college tuition, and we have also done a survey of educators — an opinion survey of educators throughout our state to ask for their opinions on work conditions, preparation time, the other things that go into the classroom. And we are soon going to be surveying the opinions of all our education support professionals.
We have earned now for two years in a row in the toughest of times from Education Week Magazine the distinction of having the best public schools in the United States of America, not by chance but by choice.
All of you have very, very difficult jobs, but they are also extremely, extremely important jobs. And all too often your work, your sacrifice goes underappreciated, and too often your motivations are maligned.
But as a country, while we don't always do our best at showing our appreciation for you, your work is the answer to all of the great challenges that confront us as a country, even, indeed, as a species on this planet.
The key to unlocking the greatest job-creating potential and expanding our global leadership in this rapidly changing world, improving pre-K, K-12, post-secondary education — is absolutely essential for unleashing the life-saving, job-creating, innovative capacity of the people of our country. And this leadership in improving education and the skills of our people has never mattered more than it does right now.
It has been written that human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.
Is it a challenge? You bet it's a challenge. It's a big challenge. It's our challenge. It might be the greatest challenge our world has ever faced in these times, in our times. But we are not at the edge of a cliff, my friends. We are on the threshold of some of the most amazing discoveries, brilliant science, innovative technology, that can transform for the better the way we feed, fuel and heal this world of ours if only we invest — if only we invest in the brainpower and the creative potential of our people.
Are you with me?
And you know it all begins in our schools. It all begins in our schools. And so it's the responsibility, I believe, of all of us to have the honor to be able to serve in elected office to stand by you, and to support you with the tools, with the resources and the support that you need, so that our students can succeed in the classroom.
As Americans, we have always been at our strongest when we embrace the timeless human truth that we progress as a people, not on the weakness of our neighbors, but on the strength of our neighbors. And it's that shared value that is manifest so strongly in the high quality of the education system that we have built for our children in Maryland.
You know, on Thursday night, the House of Representatives, led by Nancy Pelosi and Maryland’s own Steny Hoyer, passed their version of the education jobs bill, which is projected to save 138,000 education jobs. And I can give you 60,000 reasons that bill passed the House of Representatives. And it has to do with the 60,000 calls, letters and e-mails that your organization made to our members in Congress.
And now, we are going to need to pull together that same effort to get it done in the United States Senate. We need to pass this bill. We need to pass this bill for our children's education and their future. We need to pass this bill to save educators' jobs. And we need to pass it now. And that's why I have written to President Obama and to Congress to urge them to do just that. And I want to let you know that my fellow Democratic governors, people like Ted Strickland and others, are on your side in this fight as well.
And let us not forget that your voice, Mr. President, and those of your members, were pivotal in helping us to pass health care reform as a nation. Your action helped win that fight for the Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars.
Imagine where we would be — as challenging as these times are — if you hadn't done that work to help get that passed. I can tell you, I absolutely know as a governor how critical that was to supporting our schools and saving jobs in Maryland. And with your hard work, we are going to win the fight for this education jobs bill.
Are you up for it? Are you up for it?
Great American Robert Kennedy once said the future is not a gift, it's an achievement. And it's an achievement that we need to fight for this November. There are 37 governors' offices up all around our country. And if anybody at home doesn't believe the governors’ elections matter much, just ask our friends in New Jersey how much — just how much difference an education governor can make in a state. It's critically important.
Also, governors determine the congressional district boundaries for the next ten years affecting our congressional majorities for education. Control of the U.S. Congress this year hangs in the balance. Respect for collective bargaining rights hangs in the balance. Pension security, job security, the shape of ESEA reauthorization, many important priorities in these challenging times hang in the balance.
And we need to be determined that we are not going to be the last generation of Americans who is able to look our grandchildren in the eyes and say we have given you a better country than the one we had. We need to move forward and not back. With adequate funding for public education — sing it with me, people — we move forward, not back. With respect and support for the voices and opinions of hardworking teachers and educators in every classroom and school — sing it with me — we move forward, not back.
With better support, better training, better technology in our classrooms, we move forward, not back.
I leave with you this final story, and it is this. A little girl came home from her fifth-grade class and says to her grandfather, "Grandfather, I have learned in science today that if you plant a tree it makes a big difference for the environment and it helps to clean the air and helps take up the stormwater." And she says, "Grandfather, what's the best time for planting a tree?"
Grandfather says, "Well, you know, it takes 20 years for those roots really to go deep and have the benefit in cleaning and uptaking of the stormwater, takes 20 years for the branches to spread wide and actually do the carbon sequestration and clean up the air." So he says to her, "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago."
The little girl says, "20 years ago? What is the second best time to plant a tree?"
The grandfather looked her right in the eye and said, "Right now. Right now."
Your work really, really matters. It really matters. Do not give up. Do not give up. Do not give up. I know that these can be very challenging, and also very frustrating, times, but there is no better time than now.
And you are doing one of the most important jobs in America, not just for today but also for tomorrow, and for tomorrows that we want our children to be able to enjoy.
Your hard work in our schools has to continue. You must be also an active voice of the public affairs and the choices that we make as a people.
It is an honor to fight alongside of you in this battle for the better future that we have the privilege to build for our children. As Americans, we are a great people. We are an unselfish people. We are compassionate people.
And we have need of courage in the face of these challenging and tough times to call upon the beliefs that unite us; a belief in the dignity of every individual; a belief in our own responsibility to advance the greater good; an understanding that we are all in this together, that there is no such thing as a spare American, and that, in fact, our best days can be ahead of us. It's if each of us chooses to make a difference, and each of us must try, knowing that God loves even our partial victories.
Thank you for what you do. God bless you all.