And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
Education and trees: that’s what Gov. Hogan cuts. This Wednesday, the governor released the fourth and final budget proposal of his term and continued his record of slashing funding for important education programs. Using his power to propose changes in mandatory spending through the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (known as the BFRA), his plan would cut $17.1 million in FY2019 and $88.9 million over the next five years if adopted. Here’s how it adds up:
· Quality teacher recruitment and retention grants: $5 million cut in FY2019, $20 million cut in FY2020–2023
· National Board Certification Teacher stipends: $2.1 million cut in FY2019, $16.8 million cut in FY2020–2023
· After-school and summer programs: $5 million cut in FY2019, $15 million cut in FY2020–2021
· College readiness scholarships for low-income students: $5 million cut in FY2019, $20 million cut in FY2020–2023
Despite not being able to find room in his budget for these student and educator support programs, the governor did manage to make his BOOST private school voucher program a priority by proposing an increase in funding from $5.5 million in last year’s budget to $8.85 million in FY2019. In response to these backwards values, President Betty Weller released a statement to the media on Wednesday that said in part: “Another year, another Gov. Hogan budget that follows the policy priorities of Betsy DeVos rather than Marylanders.”
The statement resulted in several press stories, including WYPR in Baltimore and WMDT on the Eastern Shore, and was included in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, and several other outlets’ overall coverage of the budget.
Gov. Hogan did provide roughly $15 million more than the outdated Thornton funding formula mandates by current law in order to ensure every district receives at least $100,000 more than last year’s budget — but we now know from a Maryland State Department of Education commissioned report that this will still leave our schools with a $3 billion funding shortage. So far, the governor has refused to even acknowledge the work of the Kirwan Commission to draft a plan to address this severe underfunding of our schools.
Remember the Protect Our Schools Act (POSA) from last year’s legislative session? The state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan — which is fundamentally based on the provisions of POSA — received approval from the U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday, allowing the state to move forward on implementing a smarter, more balanced school accountability system than we had under No Child Left Behind.
Maryland is now unique in placing significant emphasis on non-testing related measurements of student success, like access to well-rounded course offerings and educator and parent surveys of school climate, support, and safety. As The Baltimore Sun wrote, “For the first time, schools will be judged not just on test scores but on a whole list of factors including academic achievement, parent surveys, attendance rates and student enrollment in a range of [well-rounded] subjects.”
President Weller was quoted in the story: “This is a landmark moment for Maryland schools. Last year’s passage of the Protect Our Schools Act positioned this plan to ensure that school accountability is no longer based solely on standardized testing, but also on important school quality factors like student attendance, access to well-rounded learning opportunities, and school climate and safety.”
Following the pro-worker victory of overriding Gov. Hogan’s veto of Earned Sick Leave last week (one of MSEA’s 2018 legislative priorities), 200 workers from several of the state’s labor unions rallied in Annapolis on Monday night to ask the legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The proposed legislation — sponsored by gubernatorial candidate Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery-District 18) and Del. Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore County-District 11) — would raise the wage to where California, New York, and Montgomery County have pegged it, after local officials in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County have been unable to do so. Maryland’s minimum wage will reach $10.10 this July after a series of boosts have been implemented from a 2014 law. MSEA will be supporting its passage to ensure hourly-rate earners in our union get closer to a living wage as a result of the bill.
Continuing to slip away from the five consecutive years (2009–2013) of ranking #1 in the nation for education, Maryland fell outside of the top five for the first time in recent memory in this year’s Education Week state rankings. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the category that Maryland lost points in — and resulted in the second-largest drop in overall score in the nation — is on school funding and finance, as reported by WBAL-TV in Baltimore. MSEA Vice President Cheryl Bost explained how Gov. Hogan’s inaction on Maryland’s $3 billion funding shortage has prevented similar academic growth to what we saw from 2009–2013: “The governor can see where the deficits are and he has the ability to make a difference, and our students and educators are waiting for him to come through.”
Following the completion of the Kirwan Commission’s preliminary policy recommendations, Chair Brit Kirwan went before two joint legislative committees to update the General Assembly on the Commission’s work. His primary message was one of urgency as he told legislators that Maryland’s performance on education benchmarks is falling back — including on teacher pay, which is 40% behind comparable professions in the state — and that the Commission’s recommendations are aimed at addressing the state’s severe underfunding of schools by focusing additional resources on strategies that have worked in the world’s best performing school systems.
With no clear front-runner in public polling and a popular incumbent Republican governor, no single Democratic candidate for governor raised an overwhelming campaign war chest in 2017, according to required campaign finance reports made public this week. Instead, the fundraising numbers leave the Democratic primary field wide-open while GOP Gov. Larry Hogan reported having more than $9 million on hand for his re-election bid in November.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz leads the Democratic field with $2 million on hand, followed by Baltimore-area lawyer Jim Shea’s $1.3 million cash on hand. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and former NAACP President Ben Jealous reported having $695,00 and $643,000 respectively. The other three candidates in the field reported having fewer than $500,000 on hand.