Blueprint Accountability Advances; Hogan Stalls Mask Mandate

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

On September 1, the AIB Nominating Committee announced its unanimous support for nine prospective members of the Blueprint’s Accountability and Implementation Board.


AIB Nominees Selected for Governor Have “Great Expertise” to Lead, Bost Says

The next critical step in implementing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future can be taken now that the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) Nominating Committee has its slate of nine candidates for the AIB. Gov. Hogan will appoint seven from the slate to the AIB, which will have long-term oversight of the statewide implementation of the Blueprint. “It’s an exciting time in public education,” said MSEA President Cheryl Bost, a member of the Nominating Committee, as the picks were announced on Wednesday. More than five years after MSEA started the push to get the Blueprint developed, Bost reflected on the vital role the AIB will have to make sure that the Blueprint’s billions of dollars in new funding for public education make their way to classrooms and are spent equitably as planned. “We’re now in a position to have an AIB team who are gifted with great expertise to lead us through,” Bost said.

Committee Vice Chair Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s County) emphasized that the nominees have diverse backgrounds and valuable experience in both policy and implementation, including experience in the classroom, as a principal, as a superintendent, at a community college, at a four-year university, as a county executive, and in nonprofit work. Although most of the applicants came from Montgomery County and Baltimore City, Bost said she is confident that they have the capacity to faithfully represent the whole state’s best interests. “The success of any one district is important to all districts,” she said. She exhorted educators from around the state to “reach out to the AIB” to make sure that they hear from all corners.

The Nominating Committee’s six members unanimously selected the nine candidates from 43 applicants. Hogan now has until October 1 to appoint seven with the Senate’s advice and consent.

As designed by the Blueprint, the AIB will be informed by expert review teams (ERTs), created by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), that visit schools, beginning in school year 2022-2023, to ensure districts are meeting Blueprint requirements. Starting in school year 2023-2024, ERTs are to visit at least 10% of schools in three districts each year. Some schools will be targeted based on performance levels. At the August 24 State Board of Education (SBOE) meeting, MSDE shared its draft plan for ERT member qualifications and deployment structure. MSEA is listed as an organization to provide names of educators to be considered to serve on ERTs, and we will closely monitor AIB and ERT actions. MSDE’s ERT plan is subject to AIB approval and details how school visits will be executed and reported. It outlines clear expectations of transparency and collaboration, including giving schools notice of impending visits, communicating preliminary findings on site, and sharing final findings and expectations. The presentation is accessible on the MSDE website at this link.

MSEA Pushes State School Board to Enact Emergency Mask Regulation to Support Safe In-Person Education

Bost and several other education advocates successfully lobbied at the August 24 State Board of Education meeting to get the board to request emergency regulations for a statewide mask mandate in schools to reinforce the SBOE’s stated priority to keep students and educators safely learning in person during the coronavirus pandemic. Senate President Bill Ferguson and 32 of 47 senators signed a letter to the Board in support of the emergency regulation. Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County) was the only Republican to sign the letter.

At a special SBOE meeting on August 26, all but one board member—former Carroll and Howard County Senator Gail Bates—voted in favor of the emergency regulation. The emergency regulation requires approval from the General Assembly’s Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR) Committee. AELR and General Assembly leadership asked Hogan to waive AELR’s standard 10-day waiting period to vote on the measure immediately. Hogan, who has recently repeatedly dismissed mask mandates despite escalating infection rates from the Delta variant, has refused to take action. If he fails to waive the 10-day review period, the AELR Committee can vote on the regulation on September 14. State House Republicans on AELR are pushing back against the regulation.

AELR procedures for emergency regulations bypass the normal public notice and comment period, and remain in effect for a limited period of time not to exceed 180 days. Emergency regulations are not published in the Maryland Register before adoption, but notice of the committee’s receipt of the regulation is posted on the Maryland General Assembly website. In addition, MSDE had to post the text of the regulations on the agency website within three business days of submission to the AELR committee. If a member of the committee requests a public hearing on the emergency adoption of a regulation, the committee must hold the hearing, which is what is causing the September 14 meeting.


State Pension Fund Reports Record Earnings, Exceeds Expectations

The state pension fund belonging to 412,000 educators, state employees, law enforcement workers, judges, correctional officers, and legislators dramatically outperformed its benchmark growth expectations in fiscal year 2021.

The fund grew by $13.3 billion to $67.9 billion in the fiscal year that ended June 30. The total investment portfolio returned 26.7%, net of all fees and expenses, beating the policy benchmark of 24.41%. The Board of Trustees of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System voted to reduce the system’s actuarial assumed rate of return on its investments from 7.40 % to 6.80%. According to the most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report in December, the fund had a funded ratio of 73.6% and continues on a strong trajectory to reach the goal to be 80% funded by 2026, 85% funded by 2030, and 100% funded by 2039.

Biden Administration Bolsters Mental Health Supports

This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pledged $85 million to support mental health care for K-12 students. Of the total, $74.2 million is for grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for programs that raise awareness about youth mental health issues and train school staff to identify those at risk; $10.7 million is for the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program to train primary care providers.


Gubernatorial Candidates Gathering Endorsements

Valuable endorsements have been made for two Democratic gubernatorial candidates in recent days: four labor unions endorsed Tom Perez, and members of the Prince George’s County Council voiced their support for Rushern Baker. As the start of an ongoing series, Maryland Matters has interviewed several gubernatorial candidates, thus far including Democrats Doug Gansler, John King, and Wes Moore and Republican Kelly Schulz.

Watson Fills Senate 23RD District Seat; Prettyman Tapped for House District 44

On Tuesday, Senate President Bill Ferguson swore in Delegate Ronald L. Watson (D) to fill the District 23 Senate vacancy created by the resignation of former Senator Douglas J.J. Peters (D). Hogan appointed Watson, who was nominated by the Prince George’s Democratic Central Committee. Hogan appointed Roxane Prettyman (D) in House District 44A as nominated by the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee. Prettyman will complete the final year of former Delegate Keith Haynes (D-Baltimore City), who retired effective July 15.

Delegate Jim Gilchrist Decides Not to Seek Fifth Term to Represent Montgomery County

Delegate Jim Gilchrist (D-Montgomery County) will not seek reelection next year in the 17th District. The deputy majority whip, he has served in the House since 2007 and advocated strongly for land preservation. A primary challenge has been likely from Democratic party activist Joe Vogel.