And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
On Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan was inaugurated as Maryland governor for his second and final term. His speech focused less on his specific vision for Maryland, and more on the general concept of bipartisanship and civility in politics. Many in Maryland and national politics took note of his references to past Republican Party figures like President George H.W. Bush, Sen. John McCain, and Rep. Larry Hogan Sr. (his father) — as well as being introduced by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — as a direct shot across the bow of President Donald Trump.
Now, Politico is reporting that that Hogan is stoking speculation that he’ll primary the sitting president of his own party in 2020. Hogan refused to rule out a presidential bid and commit to serving out his four-year term in a press conference yesterday.
While Hogan flirts with challenging Trump and engaging in national politics, there are real challenges going on in Maryland that remain unaddressed. He mentioned education or schools just one time in his entire speech, saying, “We funded education at historic levels to give our schools the resources needed to prepare our children for the opportunities of the future.” Yet schools have been underfunded by at least $2.9 billion every year Hogan has been in office. After his speech, The Baltimore Sun challenged Hogan on his rhetoric, writing, “Mr. Hogan is staring down a conflict between his commitment to fully fund education and his promise to block any tax increases. If it comes down to it, is he, like the elder George Bush, willing to sacrifice his popularity to promote the greater good?”
On Friday, Governor Hogan released his budget that — despite the perennial and predictable touting of “record funding” for schools — leaves public schools underfunded by billions compared to what independent analysts and the Kirwan Commission deem are necessary. Hogan’s autopilot budget includes required funding increases driven by inflation and increased enrollment. It also features $200 million in funding set aside by the 2018 General Assembly to implement recommendations coming from the Kirwan Commission, the first major ramping up of funds to support the Kirwan plan.
For the first time, the budget also includes new money flowing to schools thanks to the successful passage of Question 1 (Fix the Fund) during the 2018 election. The first year of the four-year Question 1 phase-in adds $125 million to school funding. While many legislators, advocates, and Kirwan Commission members themselves have recommended that this funding be added to the set-aside $200 million to hasten the end of the underfunding of our schools, Hogan’s budget does otherwise. Instead, the governor proposes spending more than half of the $125 million on school construction and $5 million or less on a variety of other programs. His proposal leaves only $35 million to aid Kirwan implementation. The legislature should look for ways to ensure that the vast majority, if not all, of the Question 1 funding goes for its intended purpose: implementing Kirwan and addressing the underfunding of our schools.
An easy place for the General Assembly to find more funding for Kirwan is the wasteful and failed private school voucher program known as BOOST, which receives $10 million in the governor’s budget. It’s a program utilized mostly by families which already send their kids to private schools and research demonstrates that private school voucher programs result in worse academic outcomes. Before this program — which drains much-needed resources away from our underfunded public schools — grows even larger, the legislature should instead phase it out.
Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore and Howard-District 12), a former Howard County teacher, re-introduced legislation (HB87) this week to create three new seats on the State Board of Education: two for current certified teachers and one for the parent of a current public school student. Similar legislation last year passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, but because it was vetoed by Gov. Hogan in the final year of a four-year term, the veto could not be overridden. Just one current member of the State Board of Education has experience working in a Maryland public school.
The legislation did pick up some new support from someone who knows the Board very well: Del. Michele Guyton (D-Baltimore County-District 42B), one of the new members of the House and recent member of the State Board of Education, has signed on as a co-sponsor for the bill.
Gov. Hogan has once again included a bill (HB45/SB92) in his legislative agenda that would create an inspector general position in the Maryland State Department of Education with subpoena power to investigate the state’s 24 school districts. He claims this is to create accountability in education, but in reality it gives Hogan a political appointee with power to generate negative publicity about public education in his effort to promote the need for charter schools and private school vouchers. The legislation would create a commission — with a majority picked by Hogan — to select the inspector general.
As part of MSEA’s commitment to supporting coalition efforts to make Maryland a more affordable state to live for our own families and the families of our students, the Fight for $15 is one of MSEA’s 2019 legislative priorities. On Monday night, advocates and legislators leading the effort officially announced that they are introducing legislation to raise the minimum wage in Maryland to $15 an hour by 2023. After that, the minimum wage would be indexed to inflation. The legislation would apply to every local jurisdiction of the state and also remove some exemptions for farm workers and young workers, prompting advocates to call it a “Clean 15” bill.
Legislative leaders have signaled that this will be the year for a minimum wage increase, though without a commitment for such a “Clean 15” approach. Gov. Hogan took a stance of opposition when asked about it last week, citing debunked theories that it could jeopardize jobs.
Workers at BWI responsible for refueling and other important functions rallied outside the airport on Wednesday in their effort to push their employer, Menzies Aviation, to recognize their union. The workers, trying to affiliate with SEIU 32BJ, cited unfair wages and understaffing. They also called for an end of the federal government shutdown that has caused many of the TSA workers they work alongside not receiving pay. This week, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot estimated that 172,000 Marylanders are negatively impacted by the shutdown, costing them $778 million in lost wages and the state and county governments $58 million in lost tax revenue every two weeks.