Annapolis, MD, January 18 – Earlier this month, seven of the Democratic candidates for Governor of Maryland gathered online for a forum on education issues affecting Marylanders. The event, which was hosted by Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Yvette Lewis, was an opportunity where the candidates could have addressed issues for the 98,188 students with disabilities enrolled in Maryland’s K-12 school system. However, disability issues were not specifically discussed and none of the candidates mentioned the word disability during the forum.
Said Philip Kahn-Pauli, who leads candidate outreach for the disability nonprofit RespectAbility, “Sadly, all of the Maryland Democratic candidates for Governor earned an “F” today due to their failure to address the issues that impact students with disabilities.” Of the students with disabilities enrolled in Maryland’s K-12 school system, there are 257 American Indian or Alaska Native students with disabilities, 2,991 Asian students with disabilities, 40,262 Black or African American students with disabilities, 16,203 Hispanic/Latino students with disabilities, 103 Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander students with disabilities, 4,372 Biracial students with disabilities, and 34,000 White students with disabilities. Continued Kahn-Pauli, “Recognizing the barriers and complexities that impact these students is a crucial responsibility for the next governor.”
While the candidates at the Forum did not directly address the disability community, many of the issues discussed have a direct impact on people with disabilities. Former nonprofit executive and federal official Baron called for vaccine requirements for Maryland’s teachers. Former Attorney General Doug Gansler also called for mandatory vaccinations for teachers, but keeping schools open as much as possible. He claimed it was “unfair” for students from poor environments to rely on technology and online school. Former US Secretary of Labor and Former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez specifically talked about supporting mental health professionals. Other issues discussed at the forum included broadband access, financial literacy, discrimination, and career readiness programs.
Three Candidates Have Completed RespectAbility’s Candidate Questionnaire
While the candidate forum didn’t go in-depth on education for students with disabilities, it is worth noting that three candidates have responded to RespectAbility’s detailed candidate questionnaire on disability issues. The questionnaire is purely for educational purposes.
The first candidate to compete the questionnaire was Ahswani Jain. Jain wrote that “it should be seen without a doubt throughout our state that disability rights are human rights. That is why I believe we need to ensure we reform our education system to be more inclusive and more accessible to students with disabilities.”
The second candidate to complete their candidate questionnaire was Doug Gansler. Gansler wrote that “all students regardless of race, income, language, or disability status deserve a world-class education right here in Maryland….while Maryland’s high schools boast a graduation rate of about 87 percent across the board, only about 68 percent of students with disabilities will graduate in four years. The Gansler administration is committed to closing that gap.”
The third candidate to complete the questionnaire was Jon Baron. Baron wrote that “as governor, my approach to supporting students with disabilities will be consistent with my overall governing philosophy: I seek to expand programs and policies that don’t just sound like good ideas, but have been tested in the real world and shown to make a big difference in people’s lives.”
RespectAbility is actively communicating with all candidates in Maryland’s gubernatorial race. All responses to the questionnaire will be posted unedited to www.VoteAbility.com and will be included in a nonpartisan voter guide.