Blueprint Passes Initial Votes

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

From the pre-Blueprint hearing pep rally on February 17. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)


The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Faces Floor Votes in House of Delegates

On Wednesday, the House of Delegates Appropriations and Ways and Means committees approved the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, House Bill 1300, and sent it on to the full House for a vote. The House is expected to consider dozens more amendments and eventually vote on final passage either late tonight or on Saturday. This is a big moment and no time to rest — we need to keep raising our voices to make sure that our schools and students get the funding and support that they deserve! Click here to email your legislators and urge them to pass the Blueprint.

What would passing the Blueprint mean?

· Dramatically raising educator pay

· Hiring thousands more educators to increase individual attention for students and to expand teacher planning and individualized instruction time

· Expanding career technical education, community schools, and pre-k

· Delivering additional resources to schools with higher levels of poverty

· Providing more support and staffing for special education and mental health services

· Adding new accountability to ensure that the new funding reaches classrooms rather than central offices

For a cow-bell infused update and summary of the Blueprint and our remaining path to victory, check out Wednesday night’s Facebook Live video. We cover the timeline and discuss amendments that we are still advancing to improve the bill.

The Blueprint is based on the findings of the Kirwan Commission and would revise the state’s school funding formula for the first time in nearly two decades. Over the next 10 years, the Blueprint calls for billions of dollars of new investment in Maryland schools that would comprehensively address the chronic underfunding of Maryland public schools.

Blueprint Amendments Provide Fiscal Relief for 17 Jurisdictions

The version of House Bill 1300 that the Senate will consider contains more than 65 amendments that were made to the Blueprint by the House Appropriations and House Ways and Means education subcommittees. One of the most important changes to come from their work is a new funding formula that provides relief from some of the financial obligations facing local governments. These formula amendments will result in the state absorbing a greater proportion of the increased education funding in 17 jurisdictions: Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Garrett, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester. Check out this table for a look at how the formula change will reduce the local share by county and by year throughout the phase-in of the new spending. Page two at this link covers what the estimated new local cost will be from Fiscal Year 2022-Fiscal Year 2030.

Paying for the Blueprint

After a day-long hearing on a proposal to reduce the sales tax from 6% to 5% and expand it to nearly all professional services (House Bill 1628), a House subcommittee voted against that measure and instead worked on a series of other bills that could serve as a revenue source for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and other state priorities. Legislative leaders in the House projected that this package of proposals that modernizes our state’s tax code and closes some corporate tax loopholes could generate over $700 million in new revenue and help to fully fund the state share of the first seven years of implementing the Blueprint. These actions are moving in the House at the end of the week and at the same time as the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee is preparing to move their own package of revenues.

The House package includes:

· HB 932: Taxing digital downloads of things like music, books, and movies (raises $147 million annually by 2025)

· HB 473: Closing three corporate loopholes on multi-state corporations ($139 million)

· HB 732: Increasing the tobacco tax and applying it to e-cigarettes and some vaping products ($79 million)

· SB 4: Legalizing sports betting, though this would be subject to voter approval in November ($30 million)

· HB 1354: Applying the sales tax to a narrow list of luxury services ($70 million)

If the House bills are combined with a Senate leadership proposal to tax digital advertising ($250 million), the proposals would raise $700+ million by 2025, according to projections from the Department of Legislative Services.


Maryland Reports Three Coronavirus Cases

On Thursday night, Gov. Hogan confirmed three Montgomery County residents have tested positive for coronavirus and declared a state of emergency to help the state receive federal funds to take necessary precautions associated with containing the spread of COVID-19.

These positive tests came after Gov. Hogan introduced a supplemental budget proposal earlier in the day that would immediately direct $10 million in state aid to address any potential virus outbreak. The House and Senate also introduced late-filed legislation (SB 1079/HB 1661) to deal with other potential costs. The legislation allows the governor to transfer up to $50 million from the Revenue Stabilization Account (Rainy Day Fund) to pay costs associated with coronavirus infection preparation and response.

The best source for statewide COVID-19 information is the State Health Department. The National Education Association also offers some NEA-related COVID-19 information that school employees may find helpful. The basic protocol remains the same: follow the school infection control plans; wash hands thoroughly and often; stay home if you’re sick.

Legislation Related to Discipline and Targeting Trauma in Schools

Students come to our schools with unprecedented levels of trauma, which affects their ability to cope and learn, and that can spill over into behavioral issues that put educators in precarious legal positions. Two bills this session attempt to address this issue directly: one by addressing the root causes of trauma through the trauma-informed school initiative (House Bill 277), and one by protecting educators who step into the fray during physical altercations (House Bill 802), which often involve students experiencing trauma.

MSEA supports both bills, the Good Teacher Protection Act and Establishing the Trauma-Informed Schools Initiative. The trauma-informed legislation is poised to pass the House today, and would then go to the Senate. Trauma-informed practices taught in specialized training take into account the stresses that students and educators are bringing to school and seek to properly and effectively address how this affects the school environment. Our schools need to be safe environments where learning and healing can occur. House action is still pending for HB 802.