And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
All of MSEA’s key legislative priorities have been introduced before the bill filing deadline this session. Most recently, MSEA’s bill to prohibit public schools from hiring subcontractors for staff positions without strong oversight and employee protections has been introduced in Senate Bill 1043, sponsored by Sen. Dawn Gile (D-Anne Arundel), crossfiled as House Bill 1175, sponsored by Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard). The legislation is needed to keep school jobs filled by educators who know their schools and communities best. Outsourcing to private contractors diminishes the connection between staff and students, and privatization lacks transparency while undermining labor contracts. The Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee will have a hearing on SB1043 at 1 p.m. on March 6. HB1175 is in the House Ways and Means and Appropriations committees. If passed, the law would take effect Oct. 1, 2024.
Next Wednesday the House will consider a bill to make sure all school employees with equivalent national certifications in comparable job placements are similarly compensated. The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future establishes a salary premium for National Board Certified teachers. Senate Bill 545, sponsored by Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel), and crossfiled as House Bill 789, sponsored by Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard), expands the job positions that qualify for the salary increases associated with earning a National Board certification and other high credentials, and working in a low-performing school while holding one of those credentials. Such an expansion will help with recruitment and retention efforts across job types as school systems continue to struggle with educator shortages. HB789 will have a hearing at 1 p.m. on February 14 in the House Ways and Committee, and SB545 will have a hearing at 1 p.m. on February 28 in the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee.
The Senate will have a hearing next week on a law to build on the governor’s Maryland Educator Shortage Reduction Act of 2023 by offering stipends to aspiring educators who begin their studies at community college. House Bill 75, sponsored by Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore County), was heard in the House Appropriations Committee on January 23. The crossfiled Senate Bill 377, sponsored by Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery), will have a hearing at 1 p.m. on February 14 in the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee.
One of MSEA’s priorities, the Freedom to Read Act, House Bill 785, sponsored by Del. Dana Jones (D-Anne Arundel), crossfiled as Senate Bill 738, sponsored by Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery), will have a hearing at 1 p.m. on February 21 in the House Ways and Means Committee. The legislation establishes standards for school and community libraries to assure fair criteria are applied and enforced in maintaining library collections and protects school media specialists and librarians who maintain the collections in accordance with the standards. The law would prohibit county boards of education and library governing bodies from retaliating against employees who act consistent with the standards.
Grow your own educator legislation, to establish programs to support education support professionals who want to become teachers, will have a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee at 1 p.m. on February 21. The legislation is House Bill 1157, sponsored by Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery), crossfiled as Senate Bill 937, sponsored by Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s). SB937 will have a hearing at 1 p.m. on March 6 in the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee. This legislation has the potential to raise teacher numbers while also diversifying the workforce.
Governor’s State of the State Address Reiterates Support for All Students
Gov. Moore’s second annual State of the State address, delivered on Wednesday to a joint session of the General Assembly, reiterated his campaign pledge to support all Marylanders with programs that build opportunities for wealth, wages and work. “And we need to honor our pledge to make Maryland schools the best in this entire country. The time to support our students, our educators, and our public schools is now,” he said. “The Blueprint is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We can seize that opportunity – but only if we do it in partnership.”
Unanticipated enrollment declines since 2019 continue to challenge schools’ long-range planning. Nationally, enrollment remains 2% lower than in the fall of 2019, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Enrollment went up 1% from fall 2021 to fall 2022 nationwide, but nowhere in the nation has enrollment rebounded since the pandemic. Maryland reports 2% fewer students in 2022-2023 than in 2019-2020, and between fall of 2021 and fall of 2022 Maryland’s enrollment increased less than 1%.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service, is making $50 million in grants available to states to increase school-based health services, with an emphasis on behavioral health. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona issued a joint letter to governors, emphasizing that this grant funding “will make it easier for states to support schools in providing critical health care services, especially mental health services, for millions of students across the nation.”
The U.S. Department of Education has $25 million for a total of 19 new grant awards to build on partnerships among schools, business, and industry. The new Perkins Innovation and Modernization, Career Connected High Schools (CCHS) program is to “develop new high-quality career-connected high school programs for more students.” Grantees will deliver postsecondary education and career guidance, increase access to dual or concurrent enrollment programs, increase work-based learning opportunities, and provide industry-recognized credentials.
U.S. Secretary of Education Cardona said, “We can transform the American high school experience and raise the bar for student engagement, achievement, and career-readiness in this country by providing all students with access to dual enrollment classes, work-based learning, industry credentials, and comprehensive career advising.”
In the race for the U.S. Senate seat from which Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) is retiring this year, U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) received an endorsement this week from Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City). Trone also received an A+ rating on the End Citizens United and Let America Vote Action Fund 2024 legislative scorecard. End Citizens United and Let America Vote Action President Tiffany Muller said, “Trone has been a leader in the fight to safeguard our democracy, expand voting rights, and get big money out of our politics to ensure that the voices of the American people are heard in Congress.” A complete list of Trone’s endorsements is here.