As Session Nears End, Progress on Equity, Testing, and More

And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street


Blueprint Companion Bill Shapes Up with Amendments

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future’s companion bill, HB 1372, is making rapid progress towards the legislative finish line. The Senate’s swift adoption Thursday of amendments to the bill on its second reading indicates that final passage is near, likely with a veto-proof majority. Given the pandemic, the Blueprint companion legislation has been drafted to include detailed plans to expand summer school, tutoring, and social-emotional programs to meet the acute needs of students. MSEA pushed successfully to amend the bill to speed up funding for concentration of poverty grants, to allow assessments used for summer programs to be selected by the school or local school board rather than be another state standardized test, to clarify that summer pay incentives are for school employees and subject to collective bargaining, and to ensure that reports on tutoring programs will include data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender and disability status, English language learner status, and socioeconomic status. HB 1372, as well as the state’s fiscal year 2022 budget, lay out how the American Rescue Plan and previous tranches of federal coronavirus relief funds must be spent with fidelity to their mission.

Lawmakers Deliver Measure of Equity to HBCUs

On Wednesday, legislators who pushed hard for a settlement with the state’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) joined Governor Hogan at Bowie State University to sign into law what he vetoed last year, the $577 million settlement with the state’s HBCUs. The new law, SB 1/HB 1, which achieves what the General Assembly attempted to enact last year, means that in fiscal years 2023 through 2032 the governor must include in the state budget approximately $57 million for the state’s four HBCUs: Bowie State, Coppin State University, Morgan State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The settlement addresses the funding inequity that the state perpetrated for generations. With a focus on equity-based legislation, MSEA advocated strongly for this settlement again this year.

Hearing Set for Legislation to Provide Educators Fairer Accommodations Process

On March 30, the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee will hear HB 1322, which passed the House last week. The legislation prevents retaliation against educators who are 65 or older, have an underlying medical condition identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as putting them at greater risk from coronavirus (or who live in a household with, or are the primary caretaker for, an individual who meets either of those conditions), have not been vaccinated, and who choose not to return to in-person instruction. The bill would also prevent the suspension or revocation of certifications should an educator choose not to instruct in-person during the 2020-21 school year. MSEA strongly supports this bill; to join the fight, click here to email your legislators.

Organizing Rights Closer to Reality for Community College Employees

Progress to give collective bargaining rights to educators at community colleges came in the past week as the House and Senate passed their respective bills, SB 746/HB 894. With each chamber now reviewing the other’s bill, final passage is closer than ever. The legislation has the support of a broad coalition of advocacy groups as well as the leaders of the state’s largest jurisdictions.

State Budget Passes Senate Unanimously, Back to House for Review

The state’s fiscal year 2022 budget of approximately $50 billion (HB 588) is close to final passage. Following a unanimous Senate vote on Thursday, it returns to the House, the original chamber, for review of the amendments. The House will most likely request a conference committee to work out the differences. Up the Street previously outlined budget highlights relevant to our schools here.


Fight for Relief from High-Stakes Tests Continues as State Board Pursues Waivers

Given the need for prioritizing instructional time, the State Board of Education has responded as MSEA recommended in pursuing waivers for federally mandated tests this spring and from several state graduation requirements for this year’s seniors.

With an accepted federal waiver, the state would not be required to rank schools per the federal Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) or identify new Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) Schools and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) Schools in the fall of 2021. Previously identified CSI and TSI schools would continue to receive support. The state would also be able to move (and shorten) the administration of the MCAP, which had been scheduled for the spring of 2021, to the fall of 2021. MSDE is also seeking a waiver so schools would not be required to administer science assessments for grades 5, 8, and high school. MSEA and NEA continue to lobby against administering this year’s assessments at all, and NEA has launched the #CancelTheTests campaign to build support for this goal.

The State Board also approved waivers for 2020-2021 graduation requirements that include:


County Executive and County Council Fields Evolving

In Frederick County, MSEA member and County Council member Jessica Fitzwater kicked off her campaign for county executive to take over from Jan Gardner, a Democrat who is term-limited and held the first two terms in office of the executive position since it was established by charter. Fitzwater is serving her second term on the council. She has been active in the union, including winning Activist of the Year at the NEA Representative Assembly a few years ago. She has been a public school teacher for 16 years. Another County Council member, Kai Hagen, also announced plans to seek a promotion to county executive.

In Montgomery County, County Executive and former elementary school teacher Marc Elrich faces a challenge in the primary from businessperson David Blair, who launched his campaign this week. In 2018 Elrich defeated Blair in the Democratic primary by a slim 77 vote margin.

And in Prince George’s County, former State Sen. Victor Ramirez, a Democrat who represented the county in the legislature for 16 years, is planning a run for county council. He is running for an open seat in Council District 2, where incumbent Deni L. Taveras (D) is term-limited. In a recent radio interview, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said she plans to run for re-election and is not considering a run for governor “in this moment.” That’s an important stipulation considering there are so many moments before the February 2022 filing deadline.