Election Day isn’t until November 8, but it’s never too early to learn more about Maryland’s candidates for governor. We spoke with most of the candidates and broke down their plans for improving Maryland’s education system.

We talked with candidates about the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the funding plan that increased Maryland’s state annual education budget by nearly $4 billion. It also allocates a greater amount of those funds to school districts with more financial need. We talked about charter schools––publicly funded but privately run schools––and whether or not there should be more. We talked about proposals to censor teachers from talking or teaching about certain topics––like race and gender––in school. We talked about school resource officers (SROs) and how school safety is achieved.

Read our full education voter guide to learn where candidates stand on these issues. 

Wes Moore. Screenshot via @iamwesmoore on Instagram.

Wes Moore, Democrat

Moore did not respond to an interview request. This section is based on the education plan on Moore’s campaign website.

Wes Moore is a strong supporter of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. He testified for its passage before the state legislature in 2020. On his website, Moore states that he’s committed to working together with local school districts to “ensure the Blueprint receives full funding and is implemented appropriately statewide.” In an interview with the Washington Post, he said “there is no guarantee that he will continue to fully fund the blueprint in later years.” 

Moore states he will adopt “inclusive, LGBTQ+affirming policies” so schools are safe environments where students are free from fear of bullying or harassment. He also plans to partner with existing organizations working with LGBTQ+ youth to provide additional support for students as well as expand access to trauma-informed mental health care in schools.

The former CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation hopes to reinstate the Commission on the School-to-Prison Pipeline, implement restorative practices, prevent SROs from engaging in disciplinary decisions, and eliminate “disorderly conduct” as a criminal charge in schools. 

Some of Moore’s other education priorities include: strengthening collective bargaining for educators, expanding teacher mentorship programs, raising wages for educators and building new pipelines to the workforce.

Moore previously said he does not want to increase the number of charter schools in Maryland; he’s focusing on holding existing charter schools accountable and increasing funding to public schools, according to the Washington Post.

In the Democratic primary, Moore won the endorsement of Maryland’s largest teacher’s union.

Daniel Cox. Screenshot via @dancoxforgovernor on Instagram.

Daniel Cox, Republican

Daniel Cox does not support the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. He said the spending plan “does not empower teachers” and allocates too much money to school infrastructure. 

Cox prefers curriculums in Maryland to focus more on STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), adding that he thinks the purpose of school is to prepare students for high paying jobs. Cox does not think it is appropriate for educators to have discussions with students about gender identity, which he calls “indoctrination,” or systemic racism. Cox thinks ‘Critical Race Theory––a framework for understanding that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies and not taught at the primary or secondary school levels––is currently being taught in Maryland’s public schools. Cox called ‘Critical Race Theory’ “divisive, anti-American Marxism” in a campaign video on his website, which is a misunderstanding of the theory. He thinks parents can teach students about race and gender, if they so choose. Cox said he wants to increase the amount of counselors in schools but does not want them to partake in discussions about gender without parental approval.

Cox said charter schools “empower parents,” and he wants to create more charter schools. 

Cox said he supports SROs. He wants to expand their presence to every school in addition to arming them. Cox also said he wants to invest in surveillance technology to be installed in schools to promote school safety. 

David Lashar. Screenshot via @hocochamber on Instagram.

David Lashar, Libertarian

David Lashar said he doesn’t oppose the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, but he expressed deep disappointment with it. Lashar said that spending more money on education will not necessarily result in a superior education system. Because he believes the public school system in Maryland has failed, he doesn’t think providing additional funds for the system will necessarily improve results.

Lashar said he favors “school choice,” which means giving parents and/or guardians different options for the kinds of schools students attend and what is taught in those schools, primarily through the expansion of the charter network. Under Lashar’s vision, funds would follow the students rather than the school and be allocated to schools based on enrollment. In other words, schools that drop in enrollment would lose their funding. This approach also forces those schools to compete for enrollment. Lashar thinks most schools that lose funds would make changes to attract new students. And if they can’t attract more students, Lashar thinks Maryland should “let those schools die.” He wishes more public funds were allocated to creating additional charter schools as well as provide vouchers for some students to attend private schools. 

Lashar thinks curriculums should not censor any subject matter but always teach both sides of every issue, even the most controversial. 

Lashar said he wouldn’t mind if his daughter’s ninth grade teachers had discussions about gender in the classroom, but he would draw the line if his daughter was still in third grade. Lashar thinks there should be different school options, so parents can select a school that matches their values. 

Lashar supports SROs, and as governor, he would approve arming officers in schools who favored that approach. He would not, however, require armed resource officers in all schools. 

Nancy Wallace. Screenshot via wallaceforgovernor.us.

Nancy Wallace, Green Party

Nancy Wallace supports the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and said she is committed to funding it throughout her term, if elected. 

Wallace supports the Montessori approach to education, especially in kindergarten through second grade. The Montessori method “emphasizes independence, and it views children as naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a sufficiently supportive and well-prepared learning environment,” according to Wallace. She said she would work with public and private partners to enable the transition. 

Wallace said she’s open to lifting the charter school cap, which would enable the creation of additional charter schools.. But, Wallace said, the focus should be on improving the public school system. If more charter schools are created, her focus would next be on maintaining standards for teacher union involvement.

Wallace, who has been a mentor for 25 years to the same three people, wants to provide guidance to young people by creating a statewide mentoring program. She said she will recruit adults for special early-education tutoring programs to ensure that grades 1 to 6 are on track.

Wallace does not support arming SROs. She thinks school safety needs to be approached from many different angles. Educators could create a safer environment by teaching elementary students about consensus and problem solving. Wallace also thinks the entertainment industry “glorifies violence” and thinks “we need to talk as a society” about the entertainment industry’s role in school safety. 

Wallace said that she thinks there is a problem with the “sexualization” of relationships in our culture, but Wallace said the male-female binary actually emphasizes “sexualization” instead of “looking at the general humanness of all of us.” Wallace said there is a “more child-friendly environment when we don’t worry about gender one way or the other.”

Wallace said children in Maryland experience overt and systemic racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression. She thinks schools need to teach and talk with children about these issues to help them learn and “grow into a better future,” even if some families think the topics are too political. “Seeing problems and talking about them is really what educated people in civilized societies do, and that’s what we need to do in the school system,” Wallace said.

Wallace said that improving the education system will require a comprehensive approach that addresses underlying, intersecting problems. For example, Wallace said her advocacy for all public assistance housing to become rent-to-own will create stable housing, which will help students focus on their futures and education. 

Wallace said she would focus on improving school infrastructure, like shifting to electric-powered air conditioning and heating. Wallace also said she would create a program where students can get involved in tree planting and focus on environmental education so that “students will be equipped with the information they need to help fight the climate crisis as they move into adulthood.”

David Harding. Screenshot via workingclassfight.com.

David Harding, Working Class Party

David Harding supports the added funding from the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, but he doesn’t think the legislation goes far enough. With a teacher shortage, school infrastructure in disrepair, and large class sizes, Harding thinks Maryland’s school system requires more funding to meet the needs of students. Harding said he would do this by increasing taxes for developers and large corporations. 

Harding said improving school infrastructure is critical to improving education results in Maryland. He thinks the learning environment impacts students’ abilities to concentrate and educators’ abilities to do their jobs. 

Harding is in favor of keeping the charter-school cap where it is, which would mean no more charter schools can be established. Instead, Harding said, he believes in investing in more and better public schools. 

Harding said he believes parents and guardians should have some input in the curriculum. But he said he is in favor of public schools “providing complete education, including all kinds of questions, issues, and history about race, gender, and what have you.” Harding said these topics can be taught to young students as well as older students, but the content should be adjusted to match different students’ abilities at different ages. 

Harding did not provide a comment on SROs, but he said he doesn’t think “you can really solve the problem of safety in the schools without dealing with the broader questions of safety and crime.” He said he would address crime and safety across the state by providing more legal employment opportunities.

Kyle Sefcik. Screenshot via @kylesefcikforgovernor on Instagram.

Kyle Sefcik, Independent

Kyle Sefcik said the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future had good intentions, but he does not believe it has resulted in programs that empower students. Sefcik doesn’t think the plan is getting kids involved enough in the community. He thinks there should be more programs in the school to build comradery amongst students and combat bullying. 

Sefcik believes that students need different school styles to meet their learning needs. He wants to expand the charter network and provide vouchers, so some students can attend private schools. The candidate added that he wants to make all public schools more flexible with their curriculums and programs so that they resemble charter schools. 

Sefcik believes that parents are responsible for teaching their children about race and gender, if they so choose. He does not think educators should have those conversations with elementary-aged kids. But, Sefcik said, he does think schools should teach students America’s “real history” without leaving anything out, even if it is uncomfortable to discuss. The candidate was unclear about how he thought schools could teach American history without touching on race or gender.

Sefcik said that he thinks ‘Critical Race Theory’ is being taught by some individual teachers and administrators but had a misunderstanding about what ‘Critical Race Theory’ meant. Sefcik said that he thinks ‘Critical Race Theory’––an academic framework for understanding race that states race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies––is a theory that all white people are responsible for past racial injustices. That is not what the theory entails, but it does imply that systemic racism exists in Maryland. Sefcik claimed that he has never seen racism, but he said he understands his experience may be unique as a white man. “I’m cool with everybody,” Sefcik said.

Sefcik supports SROs. He runs a business that trains educators and students on how to respond during an active shooter situation.