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Big Win #3: Taking on the Hogan-DeVos Privatization Agenda

April 18, 2017 - 4:18pm
Majorities of Marylanders oppose extreme school privatization proposalsPhoto: U.S. Department of Education

Educators, students, and public schools scored several big wins this legislative session. We’ve look at two of the biggest wins and what they mean for Maryland schools: the Protect Our Schools Act and the More Learning, Less Testing Act. Today we’re looking at the defeat of Gov. Hogan’s charter schools bill.

Governor Hogan and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos share a fixation on promoting charter schools. At every turn, they seem eager to cherry-pick data, loosen accountability standards, and redirect tax dollars from traditional neighborhood public schools to charter schools.

In her home state of Michigan, DeVos spent years — and millions — trying to eliminate even the most basic accountability and transparency standards for charter schools. A Politico analysis described the result:

Despite two decades of charter-school growth, the state’s overall academic progress has failed to keep pace with other states: Michigan ranks near the bottom for fourth- and eighth-grade math and fourth-grade reading on a nationally representative test, nicknamed the “Nation’s Report Card.” Notably, the state’s charter schools scored worse on that test than their traditional public-school counterparts, according to an analysis of federal data.Critics say Michigan’s laissez-faire attitude about charter-school regulation has led to marginal and, in some cases, terrible schools in the state’s poorest communities as part of a system dominated by for-profit operators. … The results in Michigan are so disappointing that even some supporters of school choice are critical of the state’s policies.

Unfortunately, Gov. Hogan has ignored these results (and those from many other states) and introduced increasingly extreme charter school bills during his time in office. This year, his bill was modeled on the destructive changes DeVos lobbied for in Michigan: a separate charter authorizing board, the shifting of operating and facilities funding from traditional public schools to charters, allowing charter schools to hire uncertified teachers, and stripping away collective bargaining rights from charter school employees.

Back in 2015, Gov. Hogan introduced his first piece of legislation that would have lowered standards and accountability for the state’s charter schools. In response, educators worked hard with legislators and charter school advocates to find a compromise that preserved our strong law while also granting increased flexibility for high-performing charter schools.

But this year, there was no common ground to find in the governor’s proposal — with elements seemingly straight from the DeVos playbook. In another win for public education, legislators and a strong coalition of educators, parents, and civil rights advocates pushed back, defeating Gov. Hogan’s charter school fraud bill.

Joan Carter Conway, chair of the Senate’s education committee, at MSEA’s February Protect Our Schools press conference: “If [Hogan] did his research and history, he would understand that [lowering charter school standards] was a recipe for fraud and failure. It didn’t work in Michigan, it didn’t work in Ohio, and we’re definitely not going to have it in the state of Maryland.”Marylanders Disagree with Gov. Hogan on Charter Schools

When the House Ways and Means Committee voted down the governor’s charter schools bill by a 15–8 vote on March 1, they acted in step with the priorities of Marylanders. By a nearly 50-point margin (68% to 19%), Maryland voters want elected officials to focus funding on improving existing public schools rather than shifting funding to privately-run charters and private schools. This sentiment is widespread — and bipartisan.

Response to: “Which of the following better reflects your opinion: School leaders and elected officials in Maryland should focus education funding on improving public schools, OR School leaders and elected officials in Maryland should focus education funding on shifting taxpayer dollars to schools under private-sector management like charter schools and parochial schools?” (Order rotated)

As seen in the map, resistance to Gov. Hogan’s focus on lowering charter school standards, accountability, and transparency is strongest in Baltimore City — despite most so-called education “reformers” focusing their efforts there.

During the legislative session, the Baltimore Sun featured op-eds from two city educators arguing that Gov. Hogan’s charter schools bill was the wrong approach for Baltimore (and Maryland):

The defeat of this bill, a slap against the national hysteria toward privatization in the guise of innovation, illustrates the desire of many to end the trend toward market-based solutions in education and instead find solutions based on common sense. — Baltimore Sun op-ed by City teacher Morgan Showalter

And Teachers’ Democracy Project Executive Director Helen Atkinson wrote:

The first charters were devised by progressive educators in the spirit of allowing flexibility to address specific community level concerns and students’ cultural interests.The rhetoric and argument has shifted completely. Gov. Larry Hogan, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Maryland State School Board Member Chester Finn and President Donald Trump, to name a few of the players calling for the expansion of charter autonomy and funding, have a completely new set of arguments. Their reasoning has nothing to do with improving our existing school districts serving low income black and brown children. … They conclude, contrary to much of the evidence, that the only way to improve…is to bypass all government constraints and all government oversight and give free reign to private groups — and even to religious groups — to use public funds as they see fit.

Thanks to the work of legislators and advocacy of public education supporters, Maryland’s strong charter school law continues to be intact—despite Gov. Hogan’s attempts to bring it down.

Big Win #3: Taking on the Hogan-DeVos Privatization Agenda was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Big Win #2: The More Learning, Less Testing Act

April 13, 2017 - 11:04am
The new Maryland law will cut 730 hours of school testingRachel McCusker, Carroll County Teacher of the Year in 2015–2016, speaks to reporters about reducing student testing.

Maryland’s educators have gotten a lot of attention for helping to pass the Protect Our Schools Act — legislation to reset the state’s school accountability system so there’s less emphasis on standardized testing and greater focus on other measures more indicative of a student’s opportunity to learn.

But there was another hugely important education bill that passed the Maryland General Assembly this year that reduces testing in a much more direct way. The More Learning, Less Testing Act — which cleared both the House (139–0) and Senate (47–0) without a single no vote—limits mandated testing to 2.2% of the school year, except in eighth grade, when the limit is at 2.3%. That comes out to 23.8 hours in pre-kindergarten through seventh grade, 24.8 hours in eighth grade, and 25.7 hours in high school.

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General Assembly passes bill that would cap testing at 2.2 percent of overall classroom time in a year. https://t.co/P6Aw19XSbw

 — @baltimoresun

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And while that might sound like a lot of testing, it’s far less than the amount of time many Maryland school districts have used for mandated assessments in recent years. Here’s how many hours of testing each district in Maryland will cut —across the 14 grade levels (pre-K through 12th grade) — to comply with the new law:

According to 2015–2016 data collected by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Added together, the More Learning, Less Testing Act will eliminate an estimated 730 hours across 18 districts when the cap goes into effect during the 2018–2019 school year. In six districts, mandated assessments likely won’t have to change unless there were data collection problems, although the law does prevent them from over-testing like the other counties have until now. But for students in school systems like Anne Arundel, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, and Queen Anne’s, there will be a lot less standardized testing. For example, fifth graders in Dorchester County will have 29.2 fewer hours of testing—the equivalent of having an entire week of instruction added back to the school year.

“Educators applaud legislative leaders in both parties for coming together to establish a commonsense safeguard against over-testing in our schools. This means our kids will have more time to learn important well-rounded skills, and our teachers can get back to why they went into the profession in the first place: inspiring their students to love learning.”— Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education AssociationBig Win for Students Follows Years of Advocacy from Educators

After New York enacted a 2% testing cap in 2014, Maryland educators began a three-year plan to pass a similar law in our state. In order to find out exactly how much mandated testing there is each year, we passed a law in 2015 creating the Commission to Review Maryland’s Use of Assessments in Public Schools.

When students went back to school for the 2015–2016 school year, educators launched a public awareness campaign to explain how over-testing takes away valuable instruction time and narrows the curriculum.

https://medium.com/media/544c0985d2add40baa484c316453724c/href

When the Commission finished its study of how much testing goes on in Maryland schools (a lot), MSEA teamed up with Del. Eric Luedtke — a former teacher — and Sen. Roger Manno during the 2016 General Assembly session to introduce legislation to cap federal, state, and district mandated testing at 2% of the school year. Buoyed by educator voices calling for the testing limit — including an energetic “Week of Action” and thousands of emails and phone calls to state representatives — the bill passed the House of Delegates unanimously. But it stalled in the Senate after legislators expressed an interest in waiting for the Commission to make final recommendations.

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lesstesting #lesstestingmorelearning

 — @hahleewude

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In the summer of 2016, the Commission released its recommendation that every school system create a District Committee on Assessments — including classroom teachers, test coordinators, and support professionals — to identify redundant or unnecessary testing and make cuts to local assessment mandates. But just five districts agreed to implement the recommendation in full, frustrating legislators who hoped the issue could be addressed locally.

So in December, educators and legislators announced a plan to bring back the legislation to cap testing at 2% of instruction time, especially in light of the refusal by most school boards and superintendents to act on their own. The Baltimore Sun covered the plans on their last front page of 2016.

The legislation moved quickly through the House, which again passed the bill unanimously, and the Senate made minor adjustments to the bill — including increasing the cap slightly to 2.2%. The House and Senate then agreed on a compromise version of the bill that included provisions to:

  1. Create the District Committees on Assessments that most school systems refused to do on their own.
  2. Change a state-mandated middle and high school social studies test into a performance-based assessment — an innovative, hands-on way of measuring student success beyond the traditional standardized test.
  3. Give districts a waiver to the 2.2% cap in cases when the local educators association agrees that more time is necessary for student learning.

On the final day of the 2017 General Assembly session, the More Learning, Less Testing Act was passed and sent to Gov. Hogan’s desk for his signature. He has not committed to signing it yet, but it appears likely that he will.

Between the Protect Our Schools Act and the More Learning, Less Testing Act, Maryland has positioned itself as a national leader in reducing both the high stakes and time that go into standardized testing in schools. As MSEA president Betty Weller said in a statement earlier this week:

“The legislature has put Maryland schools in a position to show that our children are more than a test score. The overemphasis on testing has failed to close achievement gaps for the last two decades. It’s not enough to know that some students perform worse than others — we need to know why. Now Maryland is a national leader in refocusing time and resources on the kind of learning opportunities that truly help kids thrive in school.”

Big Win #2: The More Learning, Less Testing Act was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Betty Weller: We Should All Be Proud

April 12, 2017 - 4:57pm
Our big wins are good for students, schools, and communitiesBetty Weller, MSEA President

What a great General Assembly session! First, we passed the Protect Our Schools Act that gives Maryland a school accountability system that truly invests in and improves our schools by placing less emphasis on standardized testing and broadening the focus of what’s needed to create a great school — closing opportunity gaps, increasing equity, and creating a supportive, safe school climate. The legislation prevents the state from using federal Title I funding meant for high-poverty schools for private school vouchers, forcing public schools to be converted to charter schools, or taking over public schools and handing them over to private operators — the exact agenda Governor Hogan favors and that aligns so closely with that of Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The bill ensures that educators and parents have a seat and voice at the table when developing plans to improve low-performing schools. Good ideas are generated when communities come together for a greater good, not from top-down dictums that don’t reflect specific experience or interest in our communities.

Not only did we pass the Protect Our Schools Act, we overrode Gov. Hogan’s veto of it. Maryland is now leading the fight to protect public education from the destructive DeVos privatization agenda.

Legislators heard us on the issue of over-testing our students, too. It took two years of fighting, but on the last day of session legislators passed the More Learning, Less Testing Act that sets a limit on the amount of annual mandated and standardized testing. We’re now able to reduce the burden of testing and shift the focus back to where it belongs — on creating school atmospheres of curiosity, discovery, and joy for both students and educators.

This exciting and successful General Assembly session shows us what we can accomplish when we speak with a united voice for our students and schools. Thanks for everything you do and congratulations!

Betty Weller: We Should All Be Proud was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Toolkit: Teaching Academic Life Skills and Loving It

April 12, 2017 - 4:54pm
Meet Howard County teacher Kara Brooks-OdomKara Brooks-Odom teaches at Mt. Hebron High School in Howard County.

Students in Kara Brooks-Odom’s academic life skills classes typically have an IQ below 80 and may or may not be social, or even verbal. Kara says many are able to find gainful employment with some minor modifications to the task or workplace and that brings her great joy.

Here are some of the tools she uses to make it happen:

SOCIAL THINKING CARDS (See photo above) These are used to prompt students to think about their classroom or work behavior. The cards reduce the need to verbally correct students, allowing them to think about their own behavior and self-correct.

BACKPACK The students carefully fill backpacks like these with basic school supplies that are distributed to students in need throughout Howard County.

TOUCH CHAT For students who are limited, low, or non-verbal, the TouchChat app becomes the student’s voice. The complexity of the program is student-specific.

WORK BOXES Sorting, rolling silverware, and packing backpacks are some of the skills practiced and used in community centers, restaurants, and the Career Skills Lab.

MODIFIED CURRICULUM Our students receiving a certificate are expected to participate in general education classes and have meaningful and rigorous classwork, similar to their peers, but modified to their instructional level.

UNIQUE LEARNING This reading and math program includes science components that I use to supplement reading comprehension skills. There are stories and math skills related to getting a job, self-care, social interaction, budgeting, and other young adult and independent skills.

Toolkit: Teaching Academic Life Skills and Loving It was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Educators Lead and Win on Testing and Privatization

April 12, 2017 - 4:53pm

It’s a giant win for students, parents, educators, schools, and communities. The General Assembly’s passage of the Protect Our Schools and the More Learning, Less Testing acts point once again to Maryland and educators leading the way for improving schools and helping all students. No other state can claim similar success in fighting the Betsy DeVos privatization agenda and the crisis of over-testing as Maryland can thanks to these bills.

Soon after the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced No Child Left Behind, MSEA created an educator workgroup to develop goals for the new state accountability system that ESSA required. Those goals focused on reducing the impact of standardized tests, closing achievement and opportunity gaps, bringing educators to the table to help improve struggling schools, and protecting against the privatization agenda favored by Governor Hogan, Secretary DeVos, and President Trump.

House Speaker Mike Busch, Betty Weller, legislators, and POSA supporters at MSEA’s press conference, April 6.

That early work — presenting MSEA’s school accountability proposal to the state board, educating legislators in every county, building a strong coalition of education advocates, and mobilizing MSEA members — paid off. The Protect Our Schools Act (POSA) positions Maryland to have the smartest and most transparent accountability system in the nation.

We’re now leading the way by reducing the years of singular focus on test scores and adding important measures that every educator knows make a difference, like student attendance, school safety and discipline, and teacher quality.

POSA also prohibits the state from converting low-performing public schools into charter schools, issuing taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, or hiring for-profit management companies to take over public schools — all goals that Gov. Hogan and his State Board wanted to enact through ESSA.

Bipartisan support from legislators also passed the More Learning, Less Testing Act, which limits mandated testing to 2.2% of the school year (2.3% for eighth grade). With students in some grades facing 50+ hours of testing annually, this legislation will restore hundreds of hours of instructional time across the state. The legislation also ensures that educators will be at the table to consider which district-mandated tests to keep, shorten, or eliminate.

“We’ve made great progress,” said MSEA President Betty Weller, “but the fight isn’t over. We’ll need to be vigilant to make sure that the Hogan-appointed State Board follows through on the legislature’s efforts to stop privatization and over-testing as they implement the state’s new accountability system. Let’s be proud of what we accomplished together — and get ready for what’s next.”

Educators Lead and Win on Testing and Privatization was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Ask a Teacher: What Does the Protect Our Schools Act Mean to You?

April 12, 2017 - 4:51pm
Eight educators on why POSA MattersAllison Heintz

There’s a misconception that teachers are in favor of POSA because it gives more power to unions. This bill is about giving more power to local stakeholders, including what factors determine school success and how to deal with failing schools. Our governor has been vocal in supporting vouchers, and I’ve probably been one of the most vocal on his Facebook page. Politics often seems like the last thing we as teachers have time for. If we don’t speak up for our students and our communities, who will? — Allison Heintz, Anne Arundel County

Timothy Moraca

School accountability measures should include inputs as well as outputs. Continuing to ignore what goes into a student’s education and instead focusing solely on the results is akin to treating symptoms with willful ignorance of underlying causes. When we include measurements of the opportunity gap instead of just the achievement gap, we are finally addressing the true inequalities in our schools and our society. — Timothy Moraca, St. Mary’s County

La’Shore Redmond

Educators must lead the shift from a linear model of test-taking to a more holistic one. Student attendance, teacher quality, discipline, and class size are all integral parts of a quality education. Our students and communities will flourish academically, financially, and globally when we focus on the whole child. — La’Shore Redmond, Prince George’s County

Brendan Maltese

As a music teacher, I appreciate how the Protect Our Schools Act puts less emphasis on testing and maintains local control of schools. If we hand over our students to schools that are looking to make a profit, my job will be on the chopping block to increase profits or make room for more teachers in tested areas. POSA allows communities to decide what is best for their schools, not politicians in Annapolis and the for-profit education industry. — Brendan Maltese, Anne Arundel County

Meddo Swaby

Test scores are not our schools — it is the people in them. We can’t continue to focus on test scores should without every effort being made to ensure that every single stakeholder has the appropriate resources to achieve success. — Meddo Swaby, St. Mary’s County

Sandy Skordalos

Emphasizing accountability on test scores ignores the variables and inequities inherent in testing students from diverse backgrounds. School accountability should be measured by variables that are directly controlled by a school system and that have been proven to result in future success for students. Teacher quality, school safety and discipline, class and caseload size, and student attendance have an enormous impact on success in school and focusing on these measures would mitigate some of the inequities in our schools. — Sandy Skordalos, Baltimore County

Annie Mewborn

While I agree there should be accountability measures in place, test scores are not enough. Utilizing multiple accountability measures and other relevant information creates a clearer picture when making educational decisions about our students. — Annie Mewborn, Talbot County

Debbie Haan

This campaign will help our lower and poorer students feel like they can learn and be proud of the job they did. POSA will allow teachers to teach what their students need. — Debbie Haan, Charles County

Ask a Teacher: What Does the Protect Our Schools Act Mean to You? was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

YOU DID IT!

April 12, 2017 - 4:48pm
It’s one of the biggest wins for public education in years.

It’s one of the biggest wins for public education in years — passage of the Protect Our Schools Act means Maryland is standing up to the Hogan/DeVos/Trump privatization agenda. There’s more: passage of the More Learning, Less Testing Act means educators will have time to nurture creativity and help students develop the higher-level critical thinking skills they need.

YOU made it happen! Educators are paying attention, leading on the important policies that direct their work with students and define their schools, and pushing back when they see things going wrong.

How you did it … With near record actions from MSEA members — phone calls, emails, lobby visits, and marching — legislators made the right choice to protect our schools.

We built a strong coalition to support POSA including: NAACP — Maryland State Conference, Maryland PTA, Parent Advocacy Consortium, CASA de Maryland, Disability Rights Maryland, ACLU of Maryland, Baltimore Teachers Union, Advocates for Children and Youth, School Social Workers in Maryland, League of Women Voters, Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance, Attendance Works, Maryland Coalition for Community Schools, and Maryland Out of School Time Network, and many other community groups.

YOU DID IT! was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

My Turn: Meet Janice McRae — An Activist on Many Fronts

April 12, 2017 - 4:43pm
Janice McRae is a special education paraeducator at Sussex Elementary School in Baltimore County. She is a member of the Educational Support Professionals of Baltimore County (ESPBC).

First and foremost, I’m passionate about working with special needs children. It’s a joy, a privilege, and my pleasure to work and interact with these amazing learners.

It’s my belief that all students can learn and it’s up to dedicated educators like me to ensure that each of them gets the free, appropriate public education they deserve.

I believe that providing an appropriate public education for all is the duty of each stakeholder at every level and in every position in the school building. It’s up to us as educators to differentiate, strategize, and ensure that learning takes place every school day.

Another passion is my role as an activist for my fellow education support members. I’ve been a proud union member for 14 years and I serve on ESPBC’s government relations, bylaws and policy, recognition selections committees, and the NEA Black Caucus.

As the building representative, I meet with other representatives five times a year to discuss the latest ESPBC news and policy changes or updates to our master agreement, which I share with members in my building. I’ve also met with local legislators and lobbied in Annapolis.

Since becoming our building representative for ESPBC, my professional development opportunities have increased tremendously and I’ve taken advantage of trainings, conferences, and leadership summits — most recently the NEA 2017 ESP National Conference in March.

At MSEA’s 2015 Representative Assembly (RA) in Ocean City, I proposed a new business item (NBI) to support new delegates attending their first MSEA and NEA RA. It resulted in a teletown hall with President Betty Weller before the 2016 NEA RA in Washington D.C., and a meeting for new delegates at the convention center before the RA began. At MSEA’s 2016 RA, President Weller hosted a standing-room only meeting for new delegates. MSEA also provided new digital content to help orient new delegates to Robert’s Rules of Order and other meeting procedures. At the 2016 NEA RA in Washington D.C., I offered a similar NBI requesting future support for new delegates attending the RA through a Facebook page and other platforms.

My Turn: Meet Janice McRae — An Activist on Many Fronts was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Inside MSEA: The 2017 General Assembly

April 12, 2017 - 4:38pm
Yes, we made great progress. But that’s only half the battle.MSEA Executive Director David Helfman

It was exciting to see hundreds of MSEA activists brave the incoming storm last month to kick off the Week of Action at the March to Protect Our Schools. Thousands more members stepped up during the week to call and email their senators and delegates. Overall, member engagement in state-level advocacy for our public schools and students more than doubled this year. There can be no doubt, MSEA: Maryland educators are leading on the issues that matter for students and schools right here in Annapolis — where the policies that shape public education are made.

But when it comes to providing our students with a safe learning environment and giving our public schools the resources they need, a week of action just isn’t enough. If students are fearful of being bullied over their sexual orien- tation or gender identity, or that their families will be torn apart, who will provide a safe learning environment?

If their school buildings are unsafe, or inadequate funding results in overcrowded classrooms and overflowing caseloads for nurses and counselors, who will advocate for more resources? If students arrive at school hungry or sick, who will care for them?

Now that the General Assembly session is over, will we be able to rely on our governor and State Board of Education to deliver the protections and resources students need?

Reverend William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and recipient of an NEA Human and Civil Rights Award, refers to these issues not as left against right or Republican vs. Democrat, but as imperatives that should be supported by all — as a choice between what’s morally right and what’s morally wrong.

America Needs To Continue Reviving 'Heartbeat,' N.C. NAACP President Says

Our challenge is to continue building on the momentum of our Week of Action and progress in the General Assembly by increasing our engagement at both the local and state levels. None of us like the scenarios I mentioned above; our mission as a union is to organize fellow educators, define our interests, and fight for the change we want for our students and schools.

Inside MSEA: The 2017 General Assembly was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

MSEA Members Lead at the National ESP Conference

April 12, 2017 - 4:34pm
Uniting, Inspiring, Leading for the Whole StudentThe MSEA delegation at the NEA ESP National Conference in March.

Nearly 70 MSEA members gathered with hundreds of colleagues in Dallas on March 9–12 at NEA’s ESP National Conference — Uniting, Inspiring, and Leading for the Whole Student. On the agenda were more than 50 workshops covering critical on-the-job issues and union organizing.

Massachusetts paraeducator Raul Ramos, the NEA National ESP of the Year, was honored for his work with LGBTQ issues, art advocacy, advocacy for Lati- no cultural arts, and his leader- ship role in the Massachusetts Teachers Association where he serves on several committees. He is a graduate of NEA’s Leaders for Tomorrow program, NEA’s intensive training program for ESP.

At the conference, MSEA members Toni Mejias, Prince George’s County, and Ronnie Beard, Frederick County, joined Ramos as fellow graduates of Leaders for Tomorrow.

Among just 20 selected from across the country, Beard and Mejias completed the nine-month, 91-hour Leaders for Tomorrow program and are poised to use their skills in their locals. “I plan to get more involved in social justice initiatives such as the implementation of restorative practices in our schools,” Mejias said, “and collaborating with other members and community stakeholders in fighting for the end of the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Above: Ronnie Beard, NEA Secretary–Treasurer Princess Moss, MSEA board member Joe Coughlin, Toni Mejias, and MSEA board member Debbie Schaefer. Left: MSEA’s delegation to the NEA’s 2017 ESP National Conference.

Beard is taking his skills to the bargaining table where he’ll fight for strong contract language for ESPs. “ESP are abused due to lack of training and pro- fessional development, breaks not being given, and other con- tract violations. We need to fight back by having our members well-read on their contract and knowing what supervisors can and cannot do.”

MSEA Members Lead at the National ESP Conference was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Assessment Literacy Is a Necessary Skill for Today’s Educator

April 12, 2017 - 4:32pm
Breakthroughs in Pedagogy: Analyzing student data to make instruction relevant

Dawn Pipkin is an instructional resource teacher and National Board Certified Teacher at Leonardtown Middle School in St. Mary’s County. She represents MSEA on MSDE’s Professional Standards in Teacher Education Board and serves as its vice-chair.

Educators are harnessing the power of technology each day in order to facilitate quality instruction and assess student learning. We must now not only hone our skills in understanding the standards and planning engaging lessons, we must master a new skill — data analysis.

In my role as a school based instructional resource teacher, I work with classroom teachers daily to help them analyze the classroom, local, and state assessments that will inform the instructional decisions they make. Assessment literacy is not always included in undergraduate programs, but using data to inform and monitor instruction is an expectation of educators across Maryland.

When we think of assessment literacy we should be considering several factors. Looking at the way a particular class answered a question can give us information on common misconceptions that students have about the text they have read, the concept that is being taught, or the skill that is being assessed.

For example, if the large majority of a class picked answer B and the response for B was a result of a common mathematical error that students often make, then this math mistake would be a great place for their teacher to start the lesson the next day.

My Favorite No: Learning From Mistakes

I recommend watching the video “My Favorite No: Learning from Mistakes” from the Teaching Channel to see how the teacher incorporates using student misconceptions into a powerful lesson that engages every student. Through using student work as the basis for the lesson, the class has the benefits of getting both positive reinforcement as well as another opportunity to correct misunderstandings.

Another facet of assessment literacy that teachers must consider is when a large portion of students miss the same answer. In this case, there could be a problem with the way the question is being framed that leads to the wrong answer. We must always consider not only what wrong answers show us about student learning, but what those answers are showing us about our own work in test development. Creating quality questions is a skill and examining not only the student responses, but our own thinking, will yield better assessments.

In the case of selected response or multiple choice items, the length of answer choices, the plausibility of answers, and not having choices that are so out of the realm of possibility that they indicate they are obviously wrong, all contribute to quality item development. When test items are poorly constructed, correct answers are not necessarily a result of quality learning, but faulty item writing leading students to choose the correct answer simply because some of the choices were easy to eliminate.

Lastly, as teachers we are all focused on advancing student achievement and closing the achievement gaps that exist. Analyzing assessment data is one of the strongest tools we have in order to create instruction that is more targeted to student needs. In a time of complex standards that focus on application, it is important that we focus our teaching time on areas where students have demonstrated needs.

Too often we feel pressed to “cover the curriculum” and we engage in the next lesson before we know that our students have mastered essential learnings. Analyzing student data prior to planning has the ability to make our instruction more relevant to student needs.

If we engage in teaching lessons without thoughtful analysis of data, we could be missing valuable opportunities to correct misconceptions and build a stronger educational foundation for all of our students.

Assessment Literacy Is a Necessary Skill for Today’s Educator was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Educators and Immigration Advocacy

April 12, 2017 - 4:29pm
Know exactly where you stand when you take action

All students have the right to a free public education in this country regardless of their immigration status. With new emphasis on immigration policy enforcement, students are understandably and justifiably anxious. It is essential that all schools provide a welcoming and supportive environment.

If you choose to be an educator-advocate for immigrant student rights, you must be mindful of the following legal parameters:

Protections are strongest when you engage in activism outside of work. Engagement in political discussions or activism outside of work is a protected activity provided it does not cause disruption at school. Educators should focus on advocacy for immigrant students, and not disparage or insult other students, parents, or co-workers in the process.

Immigrant families turning to trusted educators as fears rise - Education Votes

Protections applied to speech at work are limited. The First Amendment will not protect you from discipline for statements made in class or to students during normal work hours in the school building. Teachers discussing immigration as part of the curriculum should be protected so long as the discussion is age-appropriate and relevant to the course.

Engaging in protests at school may be prohibited. Open displays of activism at school, or the encouragement of student protests that involve civil disobedience or disruption of school, would be subject to possible disciplinary action.

Congress has criminalized the harboring of undocumented immigrants. If you provide shelter to students or their families knowing they are undocumented, you may face criminal consequences. The prevailing view is that criminal consequences only apply if your intent is to help the undocumented immigrants avoid deportation.

NEA’s Board of Directors has issued a policy to be shared with local boards of education interested in creating a safe zone for all students. It requires U.S. Immigrations Enforcement and Customs (ICE), or local law enforcement agencies acting on behalf of ICE, to adhere to the policy in order to access any school or school district property.

Find a safe zones resolution for your county here.

Educators and Immigration Advocacy was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Big Win: The Protect Our Schools Act

April 12, 2017 - 12:53pm
Landmark bill turns back the DeVos privatization agenda and the culture of over-testingEducators from across Maryland came to Annapolis for MSEA’s March to Protect Our Schools on March 13. Photo © Stephen Cherry

Educators, students, and public schools scored several big wins this legislative session. This week on Newsfeed, we’ll look at three of the biggest wins and what they mean for Maryland schools. First up: the landmark Protect Our Schools Act.

This session — thanks to the work of legislators and the advocacy of educators — Maryland became a national leader in standing up to the Betsy DeVos school privatization agenda and in turning the page on the damaging test-and-punish culture in favor of one that truly invests in and improves our schools.

The Protect Our Schools Act accomplishes this by doing three big things:

  1. It prevents the DeVos privatization agenda from gaining a foothold in Maryland. It stops the state from using federal Title I funding dedicated to high-poverty schools for private school vouchers, forcing public schools to be converted to charter schools, or taking over public schools and handing them over to private operators.
  2. It ensures that far more than standardized test scores are used to evaluate school success. Under federal law, state accountability plans must now incorporate both academic indicators — like test scores or graduation rates — and school quality indicators — like a supportive school climate or access to teachers with advanced certification. Federal law requires states to give academic indicators more weight than school quality indicators, but it doesn’t say how much more. The Protect Our Schools Act takes advantage of this long overdue opportunity to finally focus on more than just test scores, striking a balance of 65% academic indicators and 35% school quality indicators.
  3. It requires the inclusion of educators and parents when developing school support and improvement plans. Under federal law, a certain number of schools will be identified as low-performing based on a state’s accountability system. By requiring school-level stakeholders to be involved in school turnaround decisions, it’s much more likely that school changes will revolve around the unique needs of a school and community rather than top-down, one-size-fits all solutions that too often don’t work.
Win Driven by Educator Activism and Coalition Effort

Educators and education advocates were fired up about stopping the DeVos agenda and rolling back the overwhelming focus on test scores — and it showed. Educators sent about 50,000 emails to legislators in support of this bill. They also made 4,000 phone calls and mailed 1,500 letters to their representatives.

But educators were far from the only ones fighting for the bill. Other groups supporting it included the NAACP — Maryland State Conference, Maryland PTA, Parent Advocacy Consortium, CASA de Maryland, Disability Rights Maryland, ACLU of Maryland, AFT-Maryland, Advocates for Children and Youth, School Social Workers in Maryland, League of Women Voters, Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance, Attendance Works, Maryland Coalition for Community Schools, and Maryland Out of School Time Network.

And initially, the Protect Our Schools Act was supported by legislators of both parties — passing out of the Education Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee on a bipartisan 19–3 vote on March 6.

But after that vote, Gov. Hogan made a political decision to oppose the bill because it blocked his ability to privatize schools and redirect federal funding meant for high-poverty schools to vouchers. Afterwards, the bill faced largely party-line votes through both chambers until it was ultimately passed and sent to the governor on March 28.

A week later, Gov. Hogan went to a Baltimore charter school to veto the bill after delivering remarks peppered with false and misleading claims about it (some of which had been fact-checked by members of his own party).

Before the ink was dry on his veto, supporters of the Protect Our Schools Act sprang into action. Educators alone sent more than 5,000 emails to legislators in the 24 hours following his veto, and educators, advocates, and legislators came together for a press conference the next morning promising to override the governor’s veto.

MSEA President Betty Weller, legislators, and education advocates call for the override of Gov. Hogan’s veto of the Protect Our Schools Act at a press conference on April 6.

And later that day, they did. The House voted 90–50 to override, followed a couple hours later by a 32–15 Senate vote to do the same. In less than 24 hours, Gov. Hogan’s obstructionism had failed and the Protect Our Schools Act was officially state law.

Public schools supporters celebrated, while Gov. Hogan spent the evening telling constituents who disagreed with him on Facebook that they were confused.

What’s Next?

Now, Maryland is leading the way on pushing back against the DeVos privatization agenda and on re-centering education policy around students rather than test scores. That’s worth celebrating.

And Maryland’s work is getting noticed. “Congratulations to the educators and parents and students of Maryland for defeating Governor Hogan’s effort to impose the DeVos agenda on the state’s public schools,” wrote education scholar Diane Ravitch the day after the override vote.

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Awesome! Maryland General Assembly passes bill limiting hours of testing in schools https://t.co/2uGOgHjtwO @massteacher @AFTMass

 — @BTU66

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But our state’s new school accountability system isn’t set in stone yet. While the General Assembly made major progress in positioning Maryland to have the strongest, smartest, and most transparent accountability system in the nation, the State Department of Education and State Board of Education still have real influence over many of the details of the plan.

The State Department will release its revised draft of the state’s draft plan in the next month or so. A period of public comment will follow, and then the state will revise its plan before the State Board approves it in August and it is submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in September.

We’ll need to stay vigilant to make sure that the state’s ultimate plan follows through on the strong, student-centered approach envisioned by the Protect Our Schools Act. Today, it’s time to celebrate a big win. And then — stay tuned!

Big Win: The Protect Our Schools Act was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Public Education Is a Big Winner as the General Assembly Adjourns Sine Die!

April 11, 2017 - 12:10pm
And other legislative updates on MSEA’s Up the StreetPhoto © Stephen CherrySINE DIE IN ANNAPOLIS

Public schools, students, and educators were big winners during the legislative session. It is exciting to share some of the good news and successes won with the support of great champions in the legislature and because of the incredible advocacy by members and coalition partners.

This document provides information on the final status of priority bills we were working and watching throughout the last 90 days.

BIG WINSThe Protect Our Schools Act

With Maryland’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation plan and new school accountability system in the balance, MSEA made the Protect Our Schools Act (HB978) our #1 priority for the legislative session — and got it passed. Last Thursday, the House (90–50) and the Senate (32–15) voted convincingly to override Gov. Hogan’s veto, a huge display of support for public education considering the overheated and partisan rhetoric coming from the governor’s office.

A team of legislative leaders made this happen and deserve tremendous credit: Senate Sponsor Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery, District 14), House Education Subcommittee Chair (and House sponsor) Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery, District 14), Senate Education Subcommittee Chair Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s-District 22), House Ways and Means Chair Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery-District 14), and Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Chair Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore City-District 43). Their leadership will help hundreds of Maryland schools improve for the next generation of Maryland students.

Here’s a quick recap of what the Protect Our Schools Act does:

· Less Emphasis on Testing: The legislation limits testing-based “academic” indicators of success to no more than 65% of a school’s accountability score, below the 70–80% previously being considered by the State Board of Education and the near-complete dominance that test scores had over school accountability under No Child Left Behind. This will include a collection of factors, from PARCC proficiency and student growth to graduation rates and English-language proficiency. The bill also requires state officials to include completion of a well-rounded curriculum as one of the “academic” indicators, making the model even more balanced.

· More Focus on Learning Opportunities: The other 35% of the school score will be determined from three opportunity-based “school quality” indicators, one of which must be based on a school climate survey completed by educators, parents, and students. The other two could be anything from chronic absenteeism to class size to teacher certification rates, so long as it is not based on student testing. Each of the three measures must count for at least 10% of the entire school score — ensuring that these measures of a student’s opportunity to learn are taken seriously by school and district leadership.

· Increased Voice for Educators: For schools identified as low-performing under this new accountability score, the bill reserves three years for local stakeholders — including school-level educators and bargaining unit representatives — to implement evidence-based improvement strategies. That means the experts who work with kids everyday have the first crack at addressing the root causes of underperformance before the state steps in with top-down interventions. The legislation also says that no school turnaround plan can overrule an existing collective bargaining agreement.

· Prevents Privatization: With Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, and Gov. Hogan’s state school board led by some of the most prominent school privatization advocates in the country, there was no question that ESSA would be used to hand over low-performing Maryland schools to private operators — unless legislators stopped it first. That’s why the Protect Our Schools Act prevents the state from converting schools into charters, issuing private school vouchers with federal school improvement funds, hiring for-profit management companies, and creating a state-run universal charter “Recovery District.” It also prevents indirect privatization efforts by prohibiting an A-F grading system for schools — used commonly to paint public schools as failing — and the issuing of federal school improvement funds through a competitive grant process (instead, funding will be issued through a need-based formula).

Educators led the charge, but we could not have gotten this landmark bill passed without support from a robust coalition of parent, civil rights, and pro-public education groups. The legislation has received national praise from many education scholars and now sets Maryland up to be a national leader in progressive education policy. As President Betty Weller told press last Friday, “I really think that we are going to set a model for the country. We’re going to get away from a philosophy that has not worked, it has not closed achievement gaps, and we’re going to try looking at the things that go into the test score and not just the test score itself.”

Maryland’s ESSA plan will still be submitted in September, and we’ll need to remain vigilant to ensure that the State Board’s plan is consistent with legislative intent. The work continues to make sure we prioritize educator-informed strategies for improving existing neighborhood public schools.

The More Learning, Less Testing Act

Yesterday, the Maryland Senate unanimously approved the More Learning, Less Testing Act (SB452) by a 47–0 bipartisan vote, after the House of Delegates approved the widely-supported bill 139–0 last Thursday. The legislation limits mandated testing to 2.2% of the school year — or 23.8 hours in elementary and middle schools and 25.7 hours in high schools — except in eighth grade, when the limit is at 2.3% or 24.8 hours. The legislation, sponsored by House Education Subcommittee Chair Luedtke and Senate Majority Whip Roger Manno (D-Montgomery-District 19) now goes to Gov. Hogan’s desk for his signature.

According to Maryland State Department of Education data from last school year, students in 14 Maryland school districts took 30 hours or more of mandated testing. The average Maryland student takes more than 200 standardized tests during their time in school, taking away 250 hours from instruction. The More Learning, Less Testing Act would significantly reduce this over-testing by eliminating an estimated 730 hours of standardized testing across 17 districts each year. The testing cap goes into effect during the 2018–2019 school year.

To aid implementation, the legislation establishes District Committees on Assessments, bringing educators, parents, and other local stakeholders to the table to consider which district-mandated tests to keep, shorten, or eliminate. It also changes the state-mandated middle and high school social studies test into a performance-based assessment — an innovative, hands-on way of measuring student success beyond the traditional standardized test.

President Betty Weller released a statement upon passage of the bill, saying, “Educators applaud legislative leaders in both parties for coming together to establish a commonsense safeguard against over-testing in our schools. This means our kids will have more time to learn important well-rounded skills, and our teachers can get back to why they went into the profession in the first place: inspiring their students to love learning.” You can read about it in The Baltimore Sun.

Full Thornton Funding for Public Schools

Protecting full funding for public schools — as required by state law — is certainly a big win with Gov. Hogan’s record of proposing cuts to public education. After educators held the governor accountable for his funding cuts in 2015, he has stopped putting the Thornton formula on the chopping block. The legislature moved the governor’s original budget — and a supplemental budget that included $39 million to help school systems deal with declining enrollment and pre-kindergarten costs — to fully fund the Thornton formula and prevent another step backwards.

However, the Assembly did have to restore some Hogan cuts made to public schools — not to the Thornton formula, but to new spending — in the governor’s budget. The legislature included $6.5 million in grants for after-school and summer programs for low-income students, as well as programs aimed at reducing teacher turnover. They also included $20 million to help districts cover increased pension expenses, after the governor refused to release that funding last year.

Overall, the budget included an increase of $65 million for K-12 education over the amount included by Gov. Hogan in his budget proposal. The legislature also included an increase for school construction funding — $22.5 million more than Gov. Hogan’s request, for a total of $353 million.

All of this work — while an important success for our schools and members during the 2017–2018 school year — does not address the fact that our schools have $2.9 billion in unmet needs. That long-term problem is now left to the Kirwan Commission, a state panel of legislators and education experts working to rewrite the state funding formula to reflect higher rates of child poverty and higher academic standards. Thanks to a bill passed this session (HB516), those recommendations may very well include funding for universal pre-K. The Commission will meet every month between now and December, when it will issue recommendations to be considered during the 2018 General Assembly session.

Gov. Hogan’s Charter School Fraud Bill Defeated

Gov. Hogan’s second attempt to lower standards for accountability, equity, and quality in Maryland’s charter school law was defeated during the 2017 General Assembly session, with the House Ways and Means Committee voting it down 7–4. In 2015, educators worked hard with legislators and charter school advocates to find a compromise that preserved our strong law while also granting increased flexibility for high-performing charter schools. But this year, there was no common ground to find in the governor’s proposal — with elements seemingly straight from the playbook of Betsy DeVos. It included a separate charter authorizing board, the shifting of operating and facilities funding from traditional public schools to charters, allowing charter schools to hire uncertified teachers, and stripping away collective bargaining rights from charter school employees.

Educators quickly pointed out that these reforms are exactly what make other states so susceptible to fraud and waste in their charter sectors. In 2014, the Center for Popular Democracy found that more than $100 million of taxpayer money had been lost to charter school fraud, waste, and abuse in the 15 states they examined. As a solution, they recommended that any board that authorizes charter schools be made up of elected members — like a school board. But under Gov. Hogan’s bill, he would have appointed the separate authorizing board members and selected the board’s chair.

With the State Board of Education now blocked from using ESSA to compel districts into using their charter authorizing power to hand over control of public schools, Maryland’s strong charter school law continues to be intact. That means we can prevent national for-profit companies from taking over schools, although many of the non-profit charters in the state still send 5–12% of their public funding to national management organizations. Other privatization proposals, including bills to create private school savings accounts or create a state-run “achievement school district,” were also defeated.

NEW BUSINESS ITEMS DURING THE LEGISLATIVE SESSIONBreaking Down the School-to-Prison Pipeline

During the Fall 2016 MSEA Representative Assembly, there were two new business items aimed at breaking down the school-to-prison pipeline: one backing a ban on suspensions in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, and another asking for a commission to study the use of restorative practices in schools. Those ideas go hand-in-hand — keeping students in school while providing helpful alternatives to suspensions — and both were addressed in the 2017 session.

Thanks to bill sponsors Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City-District 46) and Sen. Will Smith (D-Montgomery-District 20), legislation (HB425/SB651) to prohibit the suspension or expulsion of students in pre-K through second grade — except if there is an imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff — passed the General Assembly this session, in an effort to stop the harmful effects of such discipline policies for our youngest learners. According to the ACLU of Maryland, 2,363 of Maryland’s youngest students in pre-kindergarten through second grade were suspended out-of-school or expelled last year. Schools must now focus on providing student support systems and behavioral intervention plans.

Of course, we know as educators that banning suspensions without providing the training and resources for realistic alternatives is only a partial solution that sometimes causes disruption within classrooms. That’s why the General Assembly also voted to create the Commission on the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Restorative Practices (HB1287) through legislation sponsored by Del. Alonzo Washington (D-Prince George’s-District 22). The new state panel will make recommendations for how schools can better implement restorative practices to address misbehavior by students as an alternative to suspensions and expulsions.

Whistleblower Protections for School Employees

Directed by another new business Item passed last fall, MSEA has been working with Del. Jimmy Tarlau (D-Prince George’s-District 47A) on legislation (HB1145) prohibiting school systems from punishing an educator for acting as a whistleblower. The bill specifies that educators are protected in reporting three areas of misconduct: (1) an abuse of authority, gross mismanagement, or gross waste of money; (2) a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or (3) a violation of law. This legislation passed the General Assembly yesterday and now heads to Gov. Hogan’s desk for his signature.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS — AN EYE TOWARDS THE 2018 SESSIONEliminating the BOOST Private School Voucher Program

One disappointing aspect of the General Assembly session is the continuation of Maryland’s private school voucher program. Gov. Hogan’s proposal to increase funding for the privatization scheme did get cut by $1.5 million, but that still left $5.5 million for the taxpayer funded program that subsidizes expensive private school tuition at the expense of students in public schools. That means its funding remains essentially flat from last year (a $500,000 increase from FY2017).

The legislature was also unable to pass legislation that would prohibit private schools that receive public funding from discriminating against students or employees on a basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The fact that private operators objected to this bill is just more evidence that it’s inappropriate for public money to flow to these unaccountable schools. Phasing out the failed voucher program will be a priority for 2018.

Putting Teachers on the State Board of Education

In response to the stunning lack of direct stakeholders on the State Board of Education, Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore and Howard-District 12) — a former Howard County math teacher — and Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery-District 18) teamed up to introduce HB590/SB609, legislation that would put three current teachers and two parents on the Board. The three teachers would be selected through an election by their public school teacher colleagues, and the two parents would be selected by the governor from a list of three names submitted by the Maryland PTA. Just one of the 10 state school board appointments made by Gov. Hogan has been someone with experience working in Maryland public schools.

While giving parents and educators more voice in decision-making is a popular idea, the legislature did not move the bill forward this year. We’ll look to make more progress on it next session.

Teacher Arbitration Bill

An important school working conditions bill (SB760) that would give teachers the right to request an arbitration hearing — instead of a hearing with an officer hand-picked by the local school board — in suspension or termination cases cleared the Senate 32–15 this year but did not get taken up by the House. This would have given teachers a much fairer discipline process — a right that ESP members already have. It will be another priority bill for next year.

ACTIVISM GETS RESULTSEducator Engagement Drives Successful Agenda

Whether it was a reaction to the 2016 election and nomination of Betsy DeVos or a comprehensive educator-driven agenda to reduce testing and protect public education, activism from Maryland educators is the reason we got those four big wins this session. In total, teachers and support professionals sent more than 42,600 emails, made more than 3,900 calls, and mailed more than 1,300 letters to legislators during the 2017 General Assembly session. Add that to the hundreds of in-person advocacy meetings with legislators — especially following the March to Protect Our Schools in mid-March — and it’s no wonder that our elected officials were deeply in touch with the pressing issues facing our public schools. In 2017, educator voices were heard loud and clear.

Join an MSEA GO Team

Even with these important wins, we know there are more fights ahead to ensure that our schools have truly adequate and equitable funding, high quality working and learning conditions, and that we stop the DeVos privatization agenda from coming to Maryland. To win on these and other critical issues, educators will need to keep standing up and standing strong for our students.

That’s why we’re organizing GO Teams of MSEA members who focus on statewide political, communications, and legislative campaigns. GO Team members will receive training for this important work and have access to association staff support, public advocacy grants, innovative campaign technologies, and more. GO Teams are based on two-year election cycles with the option to continue in the position based on association needs.

Sign up here to join the MSEA GO Team near you.

Public Education Is a Big Winner as the General Assembly Adjourns Sine Die! was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How We Override Gov. Hogan’s Veto of the Protect Our Schools Act

April 5, 2017 - 2:30pm
And stop the DeVos privatization agenda in Maryland.Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education

Despite the support that the Protect Our Schools Act has from educators, parents, civil rights groups, state education advocates, national education experts, and legislators, Gov. Hogan vetoed it on Wednesday, April 5.

If you’re wondering what happens next, you’re not alone — it’s been the most asked question on MSEA’s Facebook page over the last couple of weeks.

So here’s the deal:

Following the governor’s veto, the bill returns to the General Assembly. To override the governor’s veto, three-fifths of each chamber must vote to override. In the House of Delegates, that’s 85 votes; in the Senate, it’s 29 votes.

Here’s the good news: in the House, the bill passed with 87 votes (four legislators were also missing at the time of the vote).

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@EricLuedtke delivered a powerful defense to support of the Protect Our Schools Act! Bill passes 87 to 50 #HB978 #MDdemsatwork #MDpolitics

 — @Nick_Mosby

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And in the Senate, it passed with 32 votes.

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Protect Our Schools Act passes the Senate! MD saying no to forced school privatization.

 — @EricLuedtke

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So Gov. Hogan’s veto can be overridden if every legislator who voted for the bill votes for the override as well.

But time is of the essence: the legislature adjourns for the year at midnight on Monday, April 10. They must override the veto before they adjourn; they can’t wait until the legislature reconvenes next January to override it. If they did, then the State Board would have free rein to submit the state’s new accountability plan, which is due this September to the U.S. Department of Education.

You can bet that if the veto isn’t overridden and the Protect Our Schools Act doesn’t become the law, Gov. Hogan and his State Board will pick back up on their plans to convert public schools to charter schools whether the school community wants it or not, send school funding to private school vouchers, and have the state take over neighborhood schools (as well as ramp back up the focus on standardized testing in how schools are measured).

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Urging Gov. Hogan not to veto the Protect Our Schools Act that prevents Maryland schools from being privatized. #ProtectMDSchools https://t.co/5QXJ610OFs

 — @SenatorZucker

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Ready to make sure the General Assembly overrides the governor’s veto? Give your representatives a call at 1–888–520–6732 or click here to send them an email. Thank them for their support if they voted for the bill (see the voting boards above) and, either way, ask them to protect our schools and vote to override the governor’s veto before session ends on April 10.

How We Override Gov. Hogan’s Veto of the Protect Our Schools Act was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

What Makes a Great School? Ask a Teacher.

April 4, 2017 - 2:05pm
Is it test scores? Not really, says social studies teacher Josh Cramer.Josh Cramer is a social studies and history teacher at Smithsburg High School in Washington County.

The Protect Our Schools Act passed in the General Assembly on March 28. Now it’s in the hands of Governor Hogan who has until midnight on April 5 to sign the bill into law, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto. But legislators are resolved to make Maryland’s implementation of ESSA one of the most pro-student, pro-public school agendas in the country with school accountability measures that span attendance, teacher quality, school safety and discipline, and protect against the privatization efforts of Governor Hogan, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and President Donald Trump.

Josh Cramer has been following the the 2017 General Assembly and providing commentary for Newsfeed. Here’s what he thinks makes a school great:

A great school means having a well thought out plan and strategy for student learning. Everyone from teachers, elected officials, school administrators, support staff, parents, and students need to have a clear set of goals and expectations.

Having adequate resources — including proper funding — are vital to making a school successful. But financial resources aren’t enough to make a school great. Elected officials and school administration need to find ways to attract and retain quality teachers.

Why New Teachers Leave…And What Might Help Them Stay

While salary can be an incentive for a teacher to come (and stay) at a school, most teachers want to be part of a dedicated team that believes in their mission to educate students and to build a strong community where they teach.

Parents and other community stakeholders play significant roles in ensuring the success of a school. Every teacher knows that parents who take an active part in their child’s education see more success in the classroom. Parents should be encouraged to reach out to their child’s teacher and discuss their child’s progress.

Parent Engagement on Rise as Priority for Schools, Districts

And don’t forget the support staff! I have always reminded the stakeholders of my school’s community that the teacher’s work environment is the student’s learning environment. Therefore, everyone has a stake in making our schools the best they can be. Schools rely on education support staff to create a positive, friendly, productive, and clean environment.

Key Facts About NEA's ESP Members

Without school secretaries, bus drivers, registrars, bookkeepers, teachers-aides, custodians, and volunteers, no school could function properly. Often these are the unsung heroes of our schools. Together they ensure that students and teachers have a clean, safe, and comfortable learning and teaching space.

A school’s success is measured by far more than test scores. In my experience, I can see that a school is succeeding when students want and have a wide range of elective course offerings including Advanced Placement classes. Successful schools offer before and after school clubs and athletic teams for students. Successful schools have parents that take a proactive approach towards their child’s education. And successful schools have teachers that care and work hard to ensure the success of every child.

What Makes a Great School? Ask a Teacher. was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Veto-Proof Majorities Send the Protect Our Schools Act to Gov. Hogan

March 31, 2017 - 1:34pm
And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the StreetTHANK YOUR DELEGATES AND SENATORS!

Thanks to your efforts, the Protect Our Schools Act passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities. Please take a moment to send your representatives an email or give them a call at 1–888–520–6732 to thank them for their support and ask them to override Gov. Hogan’s veto next week!

THE WEEK THAT WAS IN ANNAPOLISGeneral Assembly Passes Protect Our Schools Act with Veto-Proof Majorities

Despite a veto threat from Gov. Hogan and the false talking points from national school privatization advocates, the Maryland General Assembly stood with educators, parents, and civil rights groups to pass the Protect Our Schools Act (HB978) with veto-proof majorities. On Tuesday morning, the Senate passed the landmark bill with 32 votes, and later in the day, the House concurred with 87 votes. The bill then went to the governor’s desk on Wednesday afternoon, where it will sit until he either signs it into law, allows it to become law without his signature, or vetoes. He has until the end of the day next Wednesday to make his decision and then the legislature has a few days before the end of session to override his veto if necessary.

Legislators joined the pro-public education community in celebrating the hugely important vote.

· House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel-District 30A) said, “It is imperative that we pass this legislation to ensure that schools are educating the whole child and not just teaching to test after test.”

· Senate bill sponsor Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery-District 14) said, “Marylanders don’t want to see school privatization come to our state, and they want Gov. Hogan to protect our students and educators. This legislation does just that.”

· Maryland State Conference NAACP President Gerald Stansbury said, “It’s time to lead the nation in closing the opportunity gaps that lead to inequality in schools. The Protect Our Schools Act does exactly that.”

· And MSEA said, “Bottom line: This is a huge win for students and equal opportunity, and a huge loss for the national school privatization allies of our out-of-touch governor.”

You can read more about the legislation’s passage here. But the fight is not over — we still likely need the House and Senate to take one more vote to override Gov. Hogan’s veto. Review the votes and then contact your legislators to thank them for their support and ask for their vote to override (link and phone number are above).

State Legislature Approves Budget with Restored Education Funding

This week, the House and Senate finished their work agreeing on a state budget for fiscal year 2018 — including the restoration of some education funding cut in Gov. Hogan’s original budget. The legislature included $6.5 million in grants for after-school and summer programs for low-income students, as well as programs aimed at reducing teacher turnover, that got put on the chopping block by the governor. They also included $39 million to help school systems deal with declining enrollment and pre-kindergarten costs and $20 million to help districts cover increased pension expenses. Overall, it included an increase of $65 million for K-12 education over the amount included by Gov. Hogan in his budget proposal.

The legislature also included an increase for school construction funding — $22.5 million more than Gov. Hogan’s request, for a total of $353 million. Meanwhile, the legislature cut $1.5 million from Gov. Hogan’s budget for private school vouchers, redirecting that taxpayer funding back where it belongs: our public schools. That being said, the governor did get $5.5 million for his failed BOOST program, which will continue for another year.

NEWS AND NOTESUnfinished Business

While educators are on track for a very successful session, much work remains to reduce standardized testing, secure fairer discipline policies, and guarantee paid sick leave for Maryland workers:

· Less Testing, More Learning Act (HB461/SB452): The legislation to limit mandated testing to roughly 25 hours a school year has passed both chambers unanimously but in slightly different forms. MSEA is working with leaders on the House and Senate education subcommittees to find a resolution and deliver much needed testing relief before the end of session.

· Pre-K — Second Grade Suspensions Ban (HB425/SB651): This is the bill that MSEA supported with amendments — following an NBI on this topic during last fall’s representative assembly — that prohibits the suspensions of students in pre-kindergarten through second grade, with certain exceptions. Both chambers passed different versions of this legislation, so those differences need to be worked out.

· Earned Sick Leave (HB1/SB230): As part of the Working Matters coalition, MSEA has supported legislation to guarantee paid sick leave for all workers in businesses with more than 15 employees. The House passed the bill guaranteeing seven days, while the Senate passed a version guaranteeing five days. The legislature now needs to reconcile the differences without losing their veto-proof majorities (Gov. Hogan has promised to veto the bill).

Betsy DeVos Ranks Last in Popularity Among Trump Appointments

It may come as little surprise to educators that billionaire school privatization champion Betsy DeVos is not especially well-liked. But a new poll finds that the embattled Secretary of Education is even less popular than controversial White House aides Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon — in fact, she’s at the bottom of all notable Trump appointments. The Saint Leo University survey found that just 34.5% of Americans approve of DeVos, with 52% signaling their disapproval — including 41% who strongly disapprove.

DeVos likely didn’t win over any additional support after her appearance at a Brookings Institution event this week, where she said that public schools nationwide are in such bad shape that she isn’t “sure how they could get a lot worse.” She was then asked how her Department of Education should be held accountable for student achievement and she said that she wasn’t a “numbers person.” As if those answers weren’t shocking enough, she also tried to compare K-12 education to hailing a taxi cab by saying that public education advocates who oppose privatization are like the cab drivers who stand in the way of Uber.

Hogan Fact-Checked by U.S. Senator from His Own Party

As part of his misinformation campaign against the Protect Our Schools Act, Gov. Hogan has been claiming that the legislation puts $250 million of federal funding as risk. His argument? The bill fails to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. That falsehood was fact-checked by none other than Republican U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander — who co-authored ESSA himself — when he told reporters that Maryland was free to determine its own state implementation plan without interference from the federal government.

CAMPAIGN 2018Rebuilding Starts Now

Unsure how to stand up to Donald Trump, Larry Hogan, Betsy DeVos, and the rest of the anti-public education officials in power? Start by donating as much as you can to the MSEA Fund for Children and Public Education. Gov. Hogan has more than $5 million in cash on hand, and that’s not counting any dark money groups he may have secretly formed. This is the only way we can raise our voices to compete with the corporate interests trying to privatize our public schools.

Veto-Proof Majorities Send the Protect Our Schools Act to Gov. Hogan was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Maryland Now Leads the Fight to Protect Public Education from Betsy DeVos

March 29, 2017 - 4:47pm
And Gov. Hogan isn’t happy about itCredit: U.S. Department of Education

Yesterday, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Protect Our Schools Act by veto-proof majorities in both the House (87–50) and Senate (32–15), overcoming misleading threats and false talking points from Gov. Hogan. The governor now has six days to sign it into law, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it — and he has been quite clear that he will stand with Betsy DeVos and school privatization advocates and reject the bill. Amid surging grassroots support for the bill from Maryland educators, public education advocates are calling on legislators to override Gov. Hogan’s anti-public education veto.

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Educators have sent 26,000+ emails, made 3,700+ calls, &amp; made 100s of lobby visits asking legislators to pass Protect Our Schools Act. 3/4

 — @MSEAeducators

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The legislation prevents the Hogan administration from using a new federal school accountability law — the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)— to convert public schools into privately-operated and for-profit charter schools, issue private school vouchers with federal funding, create a privatized state-run school district, or hire for-profit management companies. ESSA requires states to set aside 7% of its federal Title I funds for improving low-performing schools, and this legislation ensures that none of that funding can be redirected to private and for-profit operators. Instead, it will now be invested in real evidence-based solutions — determined by educators, parents, and community leaders — to improve existing neighborhood public schools.

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Talking to press abt why Hogan is wrong on Protect Our Schools Act. The state shouldn't be able to unilaterally privatize your kid's school.

 — @EricLuedtke

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For the last fifteen years, schools have operated in a deeply counterproductive “test and punish” culture that has narrowed curriculum, stripped away instruction time, led to teacher shortages, and failed to close long-standing achievement gaps. Based on these failed results, Congress decided to get out of the way and give control over school accountability back to the states.

“We have an obligation to our children to try something new and change the status quo. It’s time to lead the nation in closing the opportunity gaps that lead to inequality in schools. The Protect Our Schools Act does exactly that.” — Gerald Stansbury, president of the Maryland State Conference NAACP

The Protect Our Schools Act makes Maryland a leader in the new “invest and improve” movement to hold schools accountable for narrowing inequities in opportunity as a way to close achievement gaps. To make room for multiple measures of student progress, the legislation limits testing-based measures of school success — like the PARCC test, HSAs, and other standardized tests — to 65% of the accountability system. The other 35% would be reserved for looking at whether all students have access to the same important opportunities to learn. This asks schools to direct time and resources to more than test administration and prep — instead, putting funding towards addressing the opportunity gaps that create the inequities in student outcomes.

“The Maryland proposal described in the Protect Our Schools Act allows for the consideration of both academic and opportunity indicators that are critical to any robust accountability system focused on student success and continuous school and district improvement.” — Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute

For example, the legislation makes school climate surveys — responses from students, parents, and educators on things like parental engagement, school safety, discipline policies, and support from administrators — indicators of school success. In addition to school climate, the Maryland State Department of Education and State Board of Education will get to decide on two additional “opportunity” measures of school quality, like class size and the percent of teachers with advanced certification, or the number of school counselors and access to career and technology education programs. The legislation also ensures that completion of a well-rounded curriculum — including the arts — is part of the equation.

“Testing alone cannot be the only tool to measure the success of a school, which is why it is essential the state must include other school quality and student success indicators. Significant research shows that this will provide a clearer picture of staff and student experiences in a school and which areas need improvement.” — Rick Tyler and Bebe Verdery, Co-Chairs of the Maryland Education Coalition

This new approach is backed by Maryland’s education stakeholder community, including: NAACP — Maryland State Conference, Maryland PTA, Parent Advocacy Consortium, CASA de Maryland, Disability Rights Maryland, Maryland State Education Association, ACLU of Maryland, Baltimore Teachers Union, Advocates for Children and Youth, School Social Workers in Maryland, League of Women Voters, Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance, Attendance Works, Maryland Coalition for Community Schools, and Maryland Out of School Time Network.

Now Hogan Is Lying About Loss of Federal Funding

Without any convincing arguments against the Protect Our Schools Act, Gov. Hogan is now attacking the bill by claiming it will jeopardize $250 million in federal Title I funding. Here’s his argument:

The Department of Legislative Services reviewed the original bill language that said testing-based and opportunity-based indicators should be weighed 51%–49% and thought the U.S. Department of Education might determine such a ratio does not meet ESSA’s standard that the test-based academic indicators be weighted “much more” in the aggregate than the other school quality indicators. If a state’s ESSA plan is rejected for non-compliance and the state refuses the subsequent opportunity to resubmit a new plan with necessary changes, federal law says the Secretary of Education may withhold Title I funding.

But there’s a huge problem with that claim. Nothing in the Protect Our Schools Act violates ESSA, especially now that the ratio of academic to school quality indicators is 65%–35%. The Maryland Attorney General’s office told legislators “nothing in House Bill 978 directly conflicts with federal law.” With no regulations in place — and language in ESSA that prohibits the Secretary of Education from rejecting a state plan unless it directly conflicts with federal law — there’s no way for Maryland’s plan to legitimately be rejected.

And this morning U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee and Republican co-author of ESSA, weighed in to clarify congressional intent: “My goal with [ESSA] was to return that debate and those decisions right where they are: to the Maryland state assembly in Annapolis. They should decide how much test results should factor into their accountability system.”

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@SenAlexander on Maryland's fight over how much test scores should factor into accountability under #ESSA. It's up to state, he says.

 — @PoliticsK12

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Want to prevent the DeVos school privatization agenda from coming to Maryland? Email or call (1–888–520–6732) your legislators and urge them to override Gov. Hogan’s threatened veto of the Protect Our Schools Act.

Maryland Now Leads the Fight to Protect Public Education from Betsy DeVos was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Hogan Tries to Save Trump-DeVos Education Agenda in Maryland

March 27, 2017 - 1:07pm
The governor teams up with Trump education advisor’s groupCredit: U.S. Department of Education

TThis week, the Maryland General Assembly will vote on the Protect Our Schools Act (HB978/SB871), legislation that would give Maryland the strongest, smartest, and most transparent accountability system in the country while preventing the privatization of low-performing schools.

Gov. Hogan and his school privatization allies are doing everything they can to defeat the bill because it stops them from overruling parents and teachers and handing the operations of public schools over to for-profit and corporate interests. Just like Betsy DeVos did in Michigan to disastrous results.

A sobering look at what Betsy DeVos did to education in Michigan - and what she might do as secretary of education

They’ve enlisted controversial school privatization proponent Michelle Rhee, the Fordham Institute (a leading national right-wing school privatization think tank), and MarylandCAN — an organization formerly led by Jason Botel, Donald Trump’s education advisor. MarylandCAN is an affiliate of the controversial, billionaire-funded 50CAN, which recently merged with Rhee’s own highly partisan StudentsFirst.

Despite the bill’s strong support among organizations that count thousands of real Marylanders among their members, these groups are working hard to defeat this bill and defend the Trump-DeVos-Hogan agenda to privatize Maryland’s public schools.

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ICYMI: Gov. @LarryHogan blasts the Protect Out Schools Act that would limit education reforms https://t.co/OXTyCHhX8I

 — @MarylandCAN

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Meanwhile, parents, educators, and civil rights groups are in strong support of the Protect Our Schools Act:

“Parents deserve to have a seat at the table when decisions are made on how to improve our kids’ schools. Corporate special interests trying to make a profit off our children shouldn’t be drowning out the voices of parents.” — Elizabeth Ysla Leight, president of the Maryland PTA.body[data-twttr-rendered="true"] {background-color: transparent;}.twitter-tweet {margin: auto !important;}

@edaclumd supports #ProtectMDSchools bill. Allows @MdPublicSchools to choose strong sch quality measures, just not unilaterally privatize. https://t.co/m8KHdoA2D1

 — @edaclumd

function notifyResize(height) {height = height ? height : document.documentElement.offsetHeight; var resized = false; if (window.donkey && donkey.resize) {donkey.resize(height); resized = true;}if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var obj = {iframe: window.frameElement, height: height}; parent._resizeIframe(obj); resized = true;}if (window.webkit && window.webkit.messageHandlers && window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize) {window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize.postMessage(height); resized = true;}return resized;}twttr.events.bind('rendered', function (event) {notifyResize();}); twttr.events.bind('resize', function (event) {notifyResize();});if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var maxWidth = parseInt(window.frameElement.getAttribute("width")); if ( 500 < maxWidth) {window.frameElement.setAttribute("width", "500");}}“The Protect Our Schools Act is a measured approach to ensuring that the needs of all students, including immigrants, are front and center in education policy. By promising to veto the act, the governor is showing yet again that the needs of our state’s children are secondary to his need to advance Trump’s anti-public education agenda.” — Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA de Maryland.body[data-twttr-rendered="true"] {background-color: transparent;}.twitter-tweet {margin: auto !important;}

@mdhousedems @MDSenate Will you stand with educators to protect schools for MD's children? Support the Protect Our Schools Act HB987 &amp; SB871

 — @MrsReamyLPHS

function notifyResize(height) {height = height ? height : document.documentElement.offsetHeight; var resized = false; if (window.donkey && donkey.resize) {donkey.resize(height); resized = true;}if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var obj = {iframe: window.frameElement, height: height}; parent._resizeIframe(obj); resized = true;}if (window.webkit && window.webkit.messageHandlers && window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize) {window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize.postMessage(height); resized = true;}return resized;}twttr.events.bind('rendered', function (event) {notifyResize();}); twttr.events.bind('resize', function (event) {notifyResize();});if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var maxWidth = parseInt(window.frameElement.getAttribute("width")); if ( 500 < maxWidth) {window.frameElement.setAttribute("width", "500");}}“Gov. Hogan has once again shown an inability to put the interests of students ahead of Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’ school privatization agenda. Our students deserve schools that are held accountable to stronger, smarter, and more transparent standards. It’s ridiculous that Gov. Hogan is standing against what overwhelming majorities of Marylanders want simply because partisan and corporate interests told him to do so.” — MSEA President Betty Weller.

This battle between private, for-profit interests and local stakeholders says a tremendous amount about what the Protect Our Schools Act comes down to: who will have the power to decide what happens to low-performing schools? The legislation gives power back to parents and educators who know the kids best. But Gov. Hogan would rather put for-profit management companies — like Edison Schools, a firm co-founded by one of Hogan’s appointees to the State Board of Education — in charge.

Support and opposition to the Protect Our Schools Act comes down to who should be in charge of education decisions. Supporters want local parents and educators to have a say in how low-performing schools are improved. Opponents want the state to take over schools and hand control to for-profit firms looking out for their bottom line first and students second.

That’s why the Maryland Education Coalition — a group of student-focused child advocates — just announced their support for the Protect Our School Act: “The Maryland Education Coalition unanimously supports Senate Bill 871/The Protect Our Schools Act as amended and urge all members of the Maryland State Senate to do the same in the best interest of all of Maryland 880,000 plus public school students statewide.”

Gov. Hogan insists on working with Donald Trump to privatize Maryland’s public schools even though his own voters — including parents — want the exact opposite. Instead of standing with the educators and parents who know our kids best, he’d rather help Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump push their radical agenda to take over and privatize our public schools.

Gov. Hogan has made it very clear that a NO vote on the Protect Our Schools Act is a YES vote on the Trump-DeVos education agenda.

Hogan Tries to Save Trump-DeVos Education Agenda in Maryland was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Gov. Hogan Threatens to Veto the Protect Our Schools Act

March 24, 2017 - 3:17pm
And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the StreetWJLA and numerous other stations covered the protests surrounding Gov. Hogan and Secretary DeVos’ visit to a Montgomery County school on Thursday.URGENT ACTION NEEDED

The Protect Our Schools Act is up for an important vote in the Senate. Please send your senator an email or give them a call at 1–888–520–6732 asking them to support the bill. Thank you!

THE WEEK THAT WAS IN ANNAPOLISGov. Hogan Threatens to Veto the Protect Our Schools Act

The Protect Our Schools Act (HB978/SB871) continues to move towards passage, with the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee voting to move the bill to the full Senate floor earlier this week. The full Senate has now started to debate the bill with a final vote likely coming early next week. The legislation would balance testing and opportunity to learn indicators in our state’s school accountability system, give educators a voice in how their schools are improved, and prevent the privatization of low-performing schools. In an interview this week, MSEA President Betty Weller explained that it’s time for a change when it comes to how we measure and improve schools: “We’ve lived in a test-and-punish culture and it hasn’t closed the gaps in achievement. We know kids are not going to test their way out of poverty.”

Gov. Hogan’s expected veto threat finally arrived — as first reported by The Baltimore Sun — during a press conference today. In doing so, Gov. Hogan is not only breaking a campaign promise to reduce testing and return education decision-making back to local parents and educators, but he is continuing to pursue the very same privatization agenda as President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (more on her and Hogan teaming up in a bit). He opposes the bill because it prevents his State Board of Education from converting public schools into for-profit charter schools, closing public schools in favor of private school vouchers, or the hiring of a for-profit management company to take over public schools. Simply put, he opposes the bill because the General Assembly is trying to prevent his privatization agenda.

It is likely that the governor will unleash the full force of his political operation to stop the bill’s passage. He and his staff are even accusing teachers of putting themselves before their students — a deeply insulting and personal attack on the hard work you and educators across Maryland do every day. We need all hands on deck to make sure members of the General Assembly know this legislation will help students get a better education. Every call made to a senator today could be the difference between winning and losing.

Betsy DeVos Visits a Maryland School — With Hogan by Her Side

It’s no coincidence that Gov. Hogan’s veto threat came as he teamed up with Secretary DeVos. The two joined together to visit a Montgomery County public school, reading to kids for a photo-op and then leaving quickly. Meanwhile, hundreds of parents in the local community protested their joint privatization agenda outside of the school, chanting “Public Schools Are a Public Good” in support of public education.

It was a truly grassroots display of how frustrated Maryland voters are with Gov. Hogan’s willingness to help the Trump Administration and its harmful policies — especially when it comes to privatizing schools.

Back in Annapolis, both Senate President Mike Miller (D-Calvert, Charles & Prince George’s-District 23) and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel-District 30A) criticized the governor’s appearance with DeVos. Busch told the Legislative Black Caucus that if DeVos and Hogan get their way, “They’re going to break down the school system.” Miller told reporters at a news conference that Maryland would return to ranking first in the nation for education, “but not with help from Betsy DeVos.”

NEWS AND NOTES

Senate Passes Teacher Arbitration Bill

Last week, we mentioned an important school working conditions bill (SB760) that would give teachers the right to request an arbitration hearing — instead of a hearing with an officer hand-picked by the local school board — in suspension or termination cases. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Guy Guzzone (D-Howard-District 13), passed the Senate 32–15 and now moves to the House, that will hopefully begin work on the bill shortly. This would give teachers a much fairer discipline process — a right that ESP members already have.

Educator Whistleblower Protections Pass House

As directed by a New Business Item during the 2016 fall representative assembly, MSEA has been working with Del. Jimmy Tarlau (D-Prince George’s-District 47A) — a longtime labor champion — to pass legislation (HB1145) prohibiting school systems from punishing an educator for acting as a whistleblower. The bill specifies that educators are protected in reporting three areas of misconduct: (1) an abuse of authority, gross mismanagement, or gross waste of money; (2) a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or (3) a violation of law. We are happy to report that the bill received a unanimous vote in the House of Delegates (139–0) and now moves to the Senate.

Maryland Voters Name Public Education Top Issue

In a brand new Washington Post poll, Maryland voters were asked “Which of the following issues do you want Maryland’s governor and state legislature to work hardest on: (the state budget), (the state economy), (public education), (transportation and infrastructure), (drug abuse), (taxes) or something else?” Way out in front was public education, which was named by 38% of voters. The next highest priority for voters was a three-way tie between taxes, the economy, and drug abuse — with 12% of voters selecting those options. With education so clearly the number one priority of voters, it’s no wonder that Gov. Hogan’s education approval rating is a full 15 points below his overall approval rating — which, by the way, went down by six points from the last Washington Post poll.

CAMPAIGN 2018Hogan Re-Elect Numbers Begin to Crumble

In an article titled, “Hogan’s deep popularity in Md. weakens when voters consider 2018,” the Washington Post details how despite a 65% approval rating, just 41% of Maryland voters say they plan to vote to re-elect Hogan and 37% say they plan to vote for the Democratic nominee. As the Post writes, “The margin has narrowed since September, when Hogan held a 46 to 30 percent edge over a generic Democrat.” Hogan’s lead has shrunk by 12 points in just a handful of months, perhaps due to his unwillingness to stand up to President Trump.

Baltimore Lawyer Joins List of Potential Democratic Candidates

Former Venable Chairman Jim Shea, a prominent Baltimore lawyer known for his support of Martin O’Malley’s successful bid for governor in 2006, is now considering a run for the state’s highest elected position himself. Shea was chair of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and is a long-time donor to Democratic candidates and causes. It’s possible that he could self-fund a significant part of his campaign, should he decide to run.

Rebuilding Starts Now

Unsure how to stand up to Donald Trump, Larry Hogan, Betsy DeVos, and the rest of the anti-public education officials in power? Start by donating as much as you can to the MSEA Fund for Children and Public Education. Gov. Hogan has more than $5 million in cash on hand, and that’s not counting any dark money groups he may have secretly formed. This is the only way we can raise our voices to compete with the corporate interests trying to privatize our public schools.

Gov. Hogan Threatens to Veto the Protect Our Schools Act was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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