And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
This is it! Monday night (March 11) is our March for Our Schools. Thank you for everyone’s hard work in organizing this event — it’s going to be a great night! We now have more than 150 buses leaving from every county in the state for what will be an absolutely energizing march and rally. Let legislators know you’re coming: call 1–888–520–6732 and ask them to take action to increase school funding.
We’re already getting preview stories in the press about the March, including this great write up in the Bethesda Magazine and this article in the Aegis. We also encourage you to read and share President Cheryl Bost’s op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, “Maryland’s Red for Ed Moment.”
Since the Kirwan Commission’s interim report was released in January, we have been waiting for legislation to implement their proposed next steps: $325 million in the FY20 budget — for teacher salaries, community schools, special education, and pre-kindergarten — and a $750 million commitment for FY21.
On Tuesday, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, and Prince George’s-District 27) and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel-District 31A) were flanked by legislators in both chambers to announce legislation (HB 1413/SB 1030) to begin implementing the commission’s Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.
The legislation contains funding for several policies over the next two years, including:
· $150 million to help local school systems increase teacher salaries by 4.5% each year (9% over two years)
· $275 million to increase special education funding
· $110 million to expand the number of community schools by hiring a coordinator and health services coordinator in every school with 80% or more FARMs student population
· $80 million to expand public pre-kindergarten
MSEA President Cheryl Bost testified during a joint hearing between the Senate Budget and Tax Committee and Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, sharing educators’ support for the increased funding and stressing the need for a new funding formula next session: “By investing in what truly improves student learning, this legislation will deliver educational equity, treat our educators with the respect and dignity they deserve, and position Maryland to win jobs of the future in a rapidly changing world economy.”
The Baltimore Sun ran a story this week detailing the need for increased funding in schools, with stakeholders throughout the Baltimore area sharing how stagnant budgets have made progress harder over the last decade. President Bost was quoted in that story, saying, “We can’t make do anymore. You put all these mandates on us and our kids are coming in with more needs.”
The March for Our Schools will continue the momentum as the legislation is expected to move quickly to the Senate floor next week.
The Board of Revenue Estimates announced the state is now expecting decreased tax revenue of $138 million and $131 million the next two years, driven by write-downs in estimated income tax. Lawmakers will now need to make cuts to Gov. Hogan’s budget, though leaders pledged that wouldn’t impact education.
“We’re having a write-down in our budget. People said, ‘You have to back off education.’ We said, ‘No,’” Speaker Busch said Tuesday during the press conference announcing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.
That being said, educators will have to voice strong support for increased education funding to make it clear the budget should not be balanced by pushing off long-delayed improvements to school spending.
Meanwhile, Gov. Hogan released his first supplemental budget proposal this week, once again declining to send down $200 million set aside by the General Assembly last year for the purpose of funding Kirwan Commission recommendations. It is believed that he is holding that money back as a negotiating chip with the legislature. His budget did include $3 million to reflect changes in enrollment and wealth that impact the state’s funding formula.
If Maryland is going to send public taxpayer dollars to unaccountable private schools, the very least it can do is make sure those schools do not discriminate against students and staff on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Unfortunately, schools that receive public dollars have repeatedly been found discriminating against students and staff in their handbooks and through their actions.
Legislation to prohibit such discrimination (HB 295/SB 848), sponsored by Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery-District 20) and Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City-District 45) passed the House of Delegates 93–47 yesterday morning, now moving to the Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Senate.
With few policy reasons to support a statewide mandate to start school after Labor Day, Gov. Hogan and his allies have instead argued that it should continue as the law of the land because it’s extremely popular. But new polling data released by Gonzales Research this week shows support for starting after Labor Day is falling, especially among parents of school-age children.
According to the poll, 56% of Maryland registered voters support a statewide mandate that schools start after Labor Day, with 40% in support of allowing school districts and their stakeholders to decide on academic calendars. That support completely erodes when you ask voters between the ages of 35–54, with a statistical tie of 48% in support of starting after Labor Day to 47% in support of local autonomy.
When the Goucher Poll asked Marylanders in September of 2016 if they supported Gov. Hogan’s executive order to mandate a post-Labor Day school start, 68% said they were in support and just 19% were in opposition. Instead of Marylanders between the ages of 35–54 having less support, they actually had greater support (74%) than the overall population. It is clear that support has dropped significantly since schools have had to implement the policy, especially among Marylanders more likely to have school-age children.
Last week we included new data on teacher salaries nudging up by 1.2% from last school year. The Maryland State Department of Education has also posted new information on educator staffing for the 2018–2019 school year and we crunched a few numbers to share with you this week. Compared to last school year, Maryland schools have added 524 teachers, driving down the students per teacher ratio from 14.85 to 14.78 (NOTE: this is NOT the same as class size). There were also 167 support staff, 163 instructional aides, 74 social workers/pupil personnel workers, 59 school counselors, 19 nurses, and 13 school psychologists added across the 24 school districts. It’s the first time since 2014–2015 that support staff were increased instead of cut.