We’ll need to stay vigilant to fight back against any future cuts that the governor proposes to the Board of Public Works. Stay tuned—and be ready to take action!

Just three people sit on Maryland’s Board of Public Works (BPW): Comptroller Peter Franchot, Treasurer Nancy Kopp, and Governor Larry Hogan. Just three votes with a lot of power over a lot of money. That’s because the BPW can manage and amend the state budget when the General Assembly isn’t in session.

So on June 26, when Gov. Hogan recommended more than $1.45 billion in state budget cuts, including $345 million from school- and educator-related funding and programs, all of MSEA’s efforts to thwart the cuts were directed at Franchot and Kopp whose votes could stop the cuts to public education.

Of the $345 million in cuts, about $111 million would be voted on during the BPW’s July 1 meeting—just five days after they were unveiled. On the table were: $71 million in cuts to educator pension funding; $25 million in cuts to important education programs, including initiatives to improve public health conditions in schools; and $12 million in disparity grants to less affluent jurisdic­tions that are typically used to help fund schools.

Calling members to action

MSEA immediately organized members to take action through an email writing campaign to Kopp and Franchot. MSEA President Cheryl Bost took every interview opportunity from her home in Baltimore to make sure the public understood, too.

“Governor Hogan’s proposed $345 million in cuts to public school funding are unconscionable and endanger the health of Maryland’s educators and students. Crisis virtual learning this spring has deepened inequities and achievement gaps among our students—and the governor’s cuts would only make them far worse.

“Educators have stepped up throughout this crisis to do all we can for our students, and the governor’s cuts are a slap in the face,” Bost said. “These cuts are simply wrong; students and educators need more—not less—support, resources, and safety measures. We condemn and oppose these cuts in the strongest possible terms and call on the Board of Public Works and the legislature to reject them.”

“We condemn and oppose these cuts in the strongest possible terms.”

— MSEA President Cheryl Bost

18,000 emails later

In less than a week, educators and friends of public education slammed the inboxes of Kopp and Franchot with more than 18,000 emails urging them to reject the $111 million the governor asked for in the first round of cuts. And on July 1, they did.

“The rejection of Gov. Hogan’s attempt to defund our public schools during the middle of a pandemic is a win—but it’s incredibly disappointing that the governor tried this in the first place.

“Educators should be focusing on how to ensure the safety and success of our students next year, rather than organizing to stop cuts to our already underfunded schools. We can’t do more with less. We can’t close expanding gaps in equity with inequitable and inadequate funding.

“We can’t accept the governor undercutting the safety of educators and students by trying to defund public schools. We need to rise to the moment and give all students the support they deserve. Rest assured that educa­tors will step up; we hope that our elected officials at all levels will do so as well.”

More work to do

Still left in the governor’s proposal is $233 million in future cuts that would need to be considered by the legislature during a future legislative session, probably in January. These include millions of dollars in state aid for K–12 programs, capital improvements to schools, and safety initiatives that impact every school system.