Prince George’s County, MD is home to 7 out of the 10 richest African American communities in the United States. More African American wealth is gathered in the county than anywhere else in the US. It is also home to the best educated in the nation as well.
So it came as a shock when Maryland’s Governor, Larry Hogan, requested an investigation into data showing increased graduation rates in the county. The governor claims that grades and credit counts are being altered to increase the rate.
Is it possible? Certainly. If the allegations are true, it would not be anything new. Schools have been accused of this for a long time, especially when it comes to student athletes. With school funding being tied to increased academic performance cheating has been discovered from West Virginia in the 1980s to Atlanta in 2011.
But why is Prince George’s County specifically being targeted out of all the counties in Maryland? One unsettling coincidence is the county executive announcing his run for governor against Hogan less than a week before this investigation was called for. Under Rushern Baker’s administration:
Crime has fallen dramatically, thanks largely to a neighborhood initiative the administration launched that focuses on reducing crime in targeted areas. Homicides dropped 40 percent in four years, and violent crime fell 36 percent. Under Baker’s watch, the county has regained the population it lost during the housing crisis, and in the past few years, Prince George’s has drawn more new residents than all but one other jurisdiction in the fast-growing Washington, D.C., area.
With those types of improvements is it really a surprise that graduation rates have increased? Even the unemployment rate is down significantly. 2012 also marked the lowest rate of rape ever reported.
According to Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education:
“Compared to high school dropouts, high school graduates are less likely to be unemployed, less likely to tangle with the criminal justice system…”
If graduation rates in Prince George’s County were rising, but other indicators were worsening, an investigation would certainly be worthy. But the effects of increased graduation rates are clearly apparent in Prince George’s County.
Perhaps Governor Hogan should turn his attention to Carroll County, first in the state in graduation rates but with a troubling rise in crime. But he probably won’t, given that the 91% white county voted for him in the 2012 election.