Maryland Governor Larry Hogan referred to opponents of his decision to deny funding to two education-related programs as "union thugs."
The Facebook comment came shortly after a new release was issued by the Maryland State Education Association, the largest teacher's union in the state, along with Senator Richard Madaleno and the ACLU of Maryland, pushing for Hogan to set aside the money that was meant for private school scholarships.
Hogan had previously announced a decision to save $80 million that the legislature had previously denied him the ability to transfer from a state reserve fund, strongly suggesting that he use it on several programs. Meanwhile, the General Assembly required Hogan to make an "all or nothing" decision, saying that he could not pick and choose between the programs.
In the end, Hogan decided not to spend the money, including the $19 million that would help localities pay for teacher pensions and the $6 million for the Aging Schools program.
However, he did put $5 million toward a private school scholarship program, an amount that was not included in the $80 million all-or-nothing deal, writes Michael Dresser for The Baltimore Sun.
The move angered the teachers' union, who argued that he had also withheld $68 million in spending that had been set aside by the legislature for an education formula to benefit high-cost school systems last year.
MSEA Vice President Cheryl Bost noted the group's disappointment in the governor for focusing more on "winning a political argument with Democrats in the legislature" than finding ways to improve the public school system. "It's yet another year of schools trying to do more for students with less help from the state than they expected."
In response, Hogan had some controversial language for the union on his Facebook page:
"We provided record funding for education two years in a row and protected your pensions," he wrote. "Don't believe this phony âcut' propaganda from the union thugs."
Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer noted that the governor's words were his own. He added that while Hogan did respect the work of teachers in the state, he believes that the union had "stopped truly representing" both teachers and students.
As a result of his comment, members of the state teachers union are now comparing Hogan to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, writes Ovetta Wiggins for The Washington Post.
Although spending levels on K-12 education aid have reached record highs in the first two budgets set by Hogan, reaching $6.3 billion this year, Madaleno argues that Hogan should not be praised for the results. He said that the increases are a result of formulas based on enrollment in addition to other factors.
"The governor wants a medal for doing what he's required to do by law," Madaleno said. "I know the governor wants credit for it doing it, but it's not like he's doing a penny more than he has to."
Board of Education President Donna Brightman said that the Washington County school system is set to lose $471,617 in teacher pension funding as a direct result of Hogan deciding not to spend the $80 million.
She added that it would not be until the quarterly budget adjustment before education officials find out if and when there will be enough savings to make up the difference.