Maryland voters in November will face a referendum question with huge ramifications for education.
A constitutional amendment will appear before voters that if passed would prevent the state from using gambling revenues from the state’s six casino operations for any project outside of education.
According to an article in The Washington Post, “The “lockbox” bill is intended to stop future governors and lawmakers from diverting casino funds toward balancing the budget. Since 2009, when the Education Trust Fund was created, $1.9 billion in casino revenue has been redirected from public school spending, according to the Maryland State Education Association, the leading teachers union.”
Unfortunately, this referendum is necessary because lawmakers went back on their word when funding got tight. The idea when Maryland legalized slot machine gambling and then table games years later was the state’s share of the casino revenues would be directed toward education. That has not happened.
The funds have been raided to such a degree that the constitutional amendment to be decided by the fall referendum calls for a phase-in period over five years to allow for 100 percent of casino funds to be used for education spending.
Local law enforcement officers and prosecutors should not be swayed by the recent Maryland Court of Special Appeals decision that overturned a drug dealer’s involuntary manslaughter conviction three years ago.
Over the last few years, Worcester County as well as jurisdictions across the state have been looking to put the blame for drug overdose deaths on those who provide the heroin or other drug to the individual. It’s been a successful tactic and often results in more jail time for dealers than simple distribution charges.
I found the wording of the opinion handed down by the high court last week to be interesting. It contained some unusual verbiage and made clear the fact this verdict was overturned should not be taken as reason for agencies to abandon their desire to hold drug dealers accountable.
“We do not prejudge future cases, nor make any broad pronouncement about the trend,” the opinion reads. “Rather, we hold here only that in prosecutions for involuntary manslaughter, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of a casual nexus between the defendant’s act and the victim’s death. Because it did not do so here, we will reverse the appellant’s manslaughter conviction.”
The opinion continues, “We start with the premise, which the state appears to concede, that the sale of heroin without more is not gross negligence. Rather we can infer the opposite, that a drug dealer wishes for his customers to remain alive so that he may sell them more heroin. Moreover, because low-level dealers are often themselves users and addicts, as Thomas is, they have no rational interest in making the conduct more dangerous.”
The opinion continues, “We do not wish for this opinion to be misunderstood. Thomas committed a serious crime and for it received a long sentence of incarceration. That was not challenged and we do not doubt its correctness. Nor do we say that drug dealers categorically cannot be liable for involuntary manslaughter when their customers die. We say only that the facts of this case do not legally support the conviction.”
The people who choose to work with special needs and disabled children are angels among us I believe. That’s why it was tremendous to see a special education teacher honored last week at the Worcester County Teacher of the Year banquet.
Congratulations to all the teachers who were nominated to represent their schools. When all was said and done last Friday, Karen Holland from Cedar Chapel took home the top honor.
The comments put forward by Cedar Chapel Special School Principal Belinda Gulyas were on the money in my opinion.
“She makes true connections with her families in order to employ new learning strategies and techniques to better meet the needs of students,” Gulyas said. “She is eager but graceful in her approach to engaging her students as well as the learning community that embraces them. Ms. Holland goes to great lengths to meet the educational, social and emotional needs of every child under her care. Her determination is evident in her ability to collaborate with various educational staff and her commitment to advocating for her students in order to better meet the needs of each learner in her class.”
Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor added, “Her work in helping to build the communication and life skills for students with severe cognitive disabilities is truly making a difference, which is why she will make a fantastic ambassador for Worcester County Public Schools in the state level program.”