And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
On Wednesday, Gov. Hogan backed the legislature- and educator-led campaign to Fix the Fund — albeit by introducing his own bill. According to his press conference remarks, his version would merely make it mandatory by law for the governor’s budget proposal to use the Education Trust Fund revenue to increase education funding. His bill aims to avoid the far stronger lockbox that would be created by taking this step by way of a constitutional amendment; leaving the funds susceptible to the same shell game we have seen for years since a governor could “pick the lock” of Hogan’s version of the lockbox whenever they wanted to via the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act. Finally, his proposal would also send a small portion of the revenue to school construction dollars, leaving less to fill the $2.9 billion annual underfunding gap for operating expenses like educator salaries and staffing increases.
While the governor stole headlines by claiming credit for the idea, he also inadvertently conceded that his own budgets have amounted to a $1.4 billion broken promise. After all, that’s how much more funding would have gone to schools during his time in office had he not raided the Education Trust Fund to plug holes in other parts of his budget proposals.
MSEA released a statement in response, saying in part, “There’s some real hypocrisy in proposing legislation to make you do something you’ve refused to do on your own.” We then called on Gov. Hogan to send the legislature an additional budget — called a supplemental budget — with the $364 million he took away from the Education Trust Fund in his current budget proposal.
The long-awaited Kirwan Commission Preliminary Report was released yesterday following a press conference by legislative leaders and the Commission’s chair, Dr. Brit Kirwan. The report paints a bleak picture of the state of Maryland education based on consultant findings that the average public school is underfunded by $2 million every year.
The Commission wants to address this underfunding by focusing on policy strategies like providing universal access to pre-kindergarten programs, expanding Career and Technical Education (CTE), utilizing the community school model in communities of concentrated poverty, raising teacher salaries, reducing teacher workload, and hiring more mental health professionals.
Legislative leaders are advancing some small recommendations from the Commission this session in one omnibus bill (HB1415/SB1092). Sponsored by House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel-District 30A) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles & Prince George’s-District 27), ideas included in the bill include:
· Establish a Career and Technical Education group, composed of individuals with expertise in CTE programs and the needs of the business community to develop rigorous CTE pathways leading to industry-certified credentials.
· Expand the current program of early childhood education by increasing the funding for prekindergarten expansion grants.
· Require MSDE, in collaboration with stakeholders, to develop a comprehensive recruitment program aimed at the top 25% of graduates from high schools (in each school system) to encourage them to consider teaching as a profession.
· Expand and fully fund the Maryland Teaching Fellows Scholarship to provide tuition remission for teachers in return for a commitment to teach in high-needs schools.
· Establish a grant program for jurisdictions or schools with high concentrations of poverty to provide additional academic instruction through after-school and summer programs.
MSEA is planning a march in Annapolis on March 19 called The March to Fix the Fund — which will focus on asking members of the General Assembly to put a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot to ensure casino gaming revenue goes towards increasing education funding. Please RSVP at this link and widely distribute the form to members and community partners.
Another school shooting in America. This one in Parkland, Florida, took the lives of 17 students and educators. It was the 18th school shooting already in 2018. Check in with NEA and the Florida Education Association to access resources for educators and parents to use to help their students cope with trauma.
This tragedy brought extra attention on Del. Rick Impallaria (R-Baltimore and Harford-District 7) and his efforts to pass HB 760 that would allow some school employees to carry guns in schools. While there are many research- and publicly-backed policy proposals that could help stem gun violence, this is not one of them. MSEA opposes this legislation. WBAL-TV11 ran a report on the bill and included our opposition. If the conversation is about arming educators, it should be arming them with the school psychologists, counselors, social workers, school nurses, community schools, and smaller class sizes necessary to do their jobs and more quickly identify and give concentrated support to troubled students.
Like clockwork, every legislative session, legislators hostile to workers and their unions introduce legislation to compromise collective bargaining. They call it “right to work.” This year, it was introduced as HB 264. Several states have shifted to “right to work” status in the last eight years, and wages in those states have dropped precipitously despite corporate earnings increasing. The proposal is a race to the bottom that Maryland has rightly rejected year after year. And as of Wednesday, Maryland rejected it again, with the House Economic Matters Committee voting 13–7 to kill the bill. And yesterday, that same committee voted 12–11 to oppose legislation that was seeking to delay the accrual and effective date of the earned sick leave legislation that passed last year and was implemented by veto override this year. Qualifying workers were able to start earning sick leave as of February 11, and with the defeat of SB 304, that benefit will continue to be available to them.
On Thursday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Shea selected Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott as his pick for lieutenant governor. Scott adds elected experience, youth, and racial diversity to the statewide ticket. In announcing the pick, Scott indicated his interest in working on public education and public health issues. While Shea has trailed in public polling, he raised the most money of any Democratic candidate in 2017 and has the second most cash-on-hand as of the January finance reports.
Two leading Democrats in two different races agreed to endorse each other this week. Gubernatorial candidate and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker endorsed businessman David Trone for Congress in the 6th District (portions of Montgomery and Frederick, and all of Washington, Allegany, and Garrett). Later in the week, the Washington Post reported on how Trone is backing Baker and helping raise money for his campaign. Both men face challenging primaries in June 2018.