Chris Rock performed in Baltimore to kick off his “Selective Outrage” tour, addressing what he called “the attention economy.” But the concept of selective outrage can also be applied in how funding for policies and programs is debated.
The Maryland BOOST (Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today), a $10 million scholarship program for kindergarten to 12th-grade students from low-income families, was passed into law in 2016 by the Maryland General Assembly. Since its implementation, Maryland BOOST has allowed approximately 20,000 students to have a better chance of success in their educational journey. In my opinion, selective outrage would be at the heart of any effort to take away money from a program that has proven a benefit to 20,000 students.
State Senate President Bill Ferguson says that while public school funding is the top priority, BOOST can continue if enough funding is available. “We want to make sure that if we have the ability and the resources to keep that opportunity open, we will,” Ferguson says.
The fate of the program will probably be decided in a joint House-Senate conference committee on the budget.
One of the most frequent attacks on the BOOST program, by public school advocates and some politicians, is that the program takes away funding from public schools. But research has shown the reverse to be true: Per-pupil funding has increased with the establishment of the program.
According to the Cato Institute, for the first three years (school years 2016-2017, 2017-2018 and 2018-2019), “public school transfers have increased annually, resulting in higher educational savings each subsequent year. In total, voucher payments were $15.6 million and Maryland’s Department of Education costs were reduced by $21.4 million, resulting in $5.8 million in net savings.”
During these and subsequent years, overall public-school funding, proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan and passed by the Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly, increased. As a board member of a Baltimore City-based nonpublic school, I know firsthand the difference in the remarkable work these community schools do on a day-to-day basis. In a middle school environment, it is not uncommon for our school to accept students who are two to three grade levels behind in reading and math. The incredible effort of the students, faculty and parental figures allows for this gap to be completely erased by the time of their entrance into high school.
One can understand the honest outrage directed toward the leaders of Baltimore City Public Schools. Honest outrage could be used to ask tough questions. Honest outrage by political decision-makers could be a catalyst for much-needed policy and personnel changes in city schools.
Tony Campbell, Towson
Tony Campbell is a political science faculty member at Towson University.
Lack of Medicare Advantage plans hurting Maryland seniors
Medicare Advantage plans are having a disproportionately harmful impact on Black and Latino seniors in Maryland and many other residents of the state on fixed incomes. Today, many seniors are still not ensured access to quality health care throughout the state.
Forty percent of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in our state are Black, compared to 25% who have traditional Medicare, according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data. But plans have been forced to exit Maryland due to low reimbursement rates set by the federal government. Hopkins Advantage, for example, exited Baltimore City and Calvert County, affecting 6,000 seniors.
Add to this the failure of the Maryland Department of Health under Gov. Larry Hogan to act quickly, and seniors have been left without access to quality care. In the waning months of the Hogan administration, seniors saw their access to quality health care disappear as certain providers abandoned their Medicare Advantage plans, and the Health Department failed to distribute funds to close the Medicare Advantage gap.
In 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a report highlighting that Medicare Advantage has substantially reduced inequalities for African Americans and Latinos in several evaluation areas. Data shows that 53% of Latino Medicare beneficiaries choose to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans, as do 49% of African Americans. In Baltimore City alone, 79% of Medicare Advantage enrollees are African American, giving them access to government-approved health plans that offer bundled health and prescription drug coverage and extra benefits that traditional Medicare doesn’t cover.
Nationally, almost 50% of Medicare beneficiaries recognize the value of Medicare Advantage plans and have opted to enroll in one, but in Maryland, the enrollment rate is only 14%. The lower rate in Maryland is due to the fundamental disconnect between the Maryland hospital payment system and the Medicare Advantage payment formula. Unlike other states, plans in Maryland do not have the option to negotiate lower prices for services.
The historic election of the Moore-Miller administration represents a new era of change and hope for Marylanders’ future. With new legislation introduced in Annapolis, we have a real opportunity to ensure that all our seniors have access to quality health care coverage so that we leave no one behind.
Rev. Dr. Alvin Hathaway Sr., Baltimore
The Rev. Dr. Alvin Hathaway Sr. retired as pastor of Union Baptist Church and is president and founder of Beloved Community Services.
Marylanders find passion, purpose working in aging-related services
Our jobs are more than just a paycheck. They become part of our identity. While pay and benefits are important, most of us look for and stay in jobs where we feel some intrinsic motivation, connection and a sense of purpose. We want to feel that the work we do makes a difference.
Thousands of Marylanders find this sense of purpose with a career in aging services.
The field of aging services includes organizations that provide housing, care and services to older adults, including affordable senior housing, assisted living, skilled nursing, continuing-care retirement communities, hospice and palliative care and home and community-based services. Jobs in aging services provide career opportunities to people at all levels with opportunities to grow within the field. With multiple pathways, jobs in aging services help build dynamic skill sets and a strong foundation for a successful career.
More than 16% of Marylanders are age 65 or older. Demographic trends indicate that by 2040, the number of Marylanders 60 and older will increase by 27 percent. These percentages are more than just numbers — they represent our parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors and, at some point, ourselves. By entering a career in aging services, you not only gain a stable career with potential for growth but a place where you’ll have the ability to make a lifelong impact on the lives of others.
Allison Roenigk Ciborowski, Sykesville
Allison Roenigk Ciborowski is president and CEO of LeadingAge Maryland.