Lifelong Marylander and UMD School of Public Policy alumnus Andrew Smarick was recently elected as president of the Maryland State Board of Education. He says he has always known he wanted to be involved in public policy and credits his time at SPP with solidifying his interest in public policy and the state of Maryland.
“As a kid, I always loved history and that led to a fascination with politics,” Smarick says. “But I eventually realized that elections weren’t as interesting to me as what came before and after the campaign, that is, political philosophy and public policy. To this day, I’m still excited by the same big questions, like who should have authority, what’s the proper role for the government, what’s the best way for communities to act together?”
Smarick, who works full time as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, works to research and write on education and other domestic-policy matters. He’s also a visiting scholar with the John Hopkins University’s School of Education. His position as president of the Maryland State Board of Education is a part-time, unpaid job, but he says he dedicates a great deal of time to it. “I’m involved with setting the board’s agenda and working with the state superintendent on various issues,” he says. “I’m in regular contact with my board colleagues and a wide array of state leaders. And I spend lots of time preparing for the various issues we’ll be discussing. Though it’s a demanding position, it’s been the honor of my career to sit on this board and now serve as its president.”
“The state board of education oversees primary and secondary schools in Maryland,” Smarick explains. “So we have policy and legal responsibilities related to school accountability, content standards, assessments, educator effectiveness and much more. Although the state board doesn’t run Maryland’s public schools, state laws and court decisions over many decades have given the board a great deal of authority. So a part of my job is constantly trying to find the right balance between using our authority to help the state’s boys and girls while making sure we use that authority judiciously and show deference to families and educators.”
After growing up in Maryland and attending Maryland public schools and graduating from the University of Maryland, Smarick says he knew he wanted to be involved in public policy in Maryland. When deciding to attend the UMD School of Public Policy, Smarick says, “I’d already done some work in government and recognized that I needed to learn more about how the policy world worked. The school had interesting programs and top-notch scholars, so it was a natural fit.” He adds that his time at SPP increased his interest in public policy and in the state of Maryland. “I also learned much about the jobs available, which helped me think through what I wanted to do and where I might be able to do the most good.”
Smarick says his degree from the School of Public Policy has had a great influence on his career. “It certainly provided me with invaluable information and skills--for instance, I understand p-values, I know what OMB does, I’m familiar with “adaptive leadership.” All of this has been immensely important. But, I also left with a greater appreciation for fundamental questions about the role of technocrats, the prudent use of authority, the limits of government power, and so on. I think my degree increased my abilities and my humility.”
In addition to the knowledge Smarick gained during his time at SPP, he also met his wife at UMD. “I made great friends, learned gobs and met terrific practitioners and academics,” he says. “But, I have to say, my favorite (and the most important part) of my time at SPP was a brilliant, fun, kind Ph.D. student over in Tydings Hall in the Government and Politics Department. We’ve now been married for 10 years and have the three most amazing kids.”