On August 1, Cheryl Bost will become the new president of the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), Maryland’s 74,000-member educators union. Bost is an elementary school teacher from Baltimore County, where she was named teacher of the year in 2003 in part for her work to create a summer camp for her disadvantaged students. She served as president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County from 2003-2011 and MSEA vice president from 2012-2018.
“The truth is, public schools have been a foundation of upward economic mobility for many Maryland families—including many low-income families—but not yet for all of our families,” said Bost. “If I can accomplish anything as president of Maryland’s educators union, I want to help deliver on the promise that every student has an equal opportunity at success in our schools.”
Bost plans to kick-off her presidency with a video message, “Room 18”, to Maryland educators and public school advocates. In the video, Bost revisits her old classroom at Mars Estates Elementary School, a low-income public school in Essex, to tell the story of how she worked with her colleagues to lead successful strategies that closed the achievement gap, reduced suspensions, and improved parental and community engagement. She stresses that this success was only possible because educators led the change instead of the state coming in and taking over the school.
“Too many people are making decisions about our profession and our kids who have never worked for a day in a classroom like Room 18,” said Bost. “It’s time to take our voices back.”
One of the major goals of Bost’s presidency will be leading a new labor movement at a time when educators unions—and labor unions generally—are facing unprecedented attacks in the face of the Janus Supreme Court case. Bost wants to build on the “Red for Ed” momentum seen in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky, where educators have marched at their state capitals for better school funding. In Maryland, that means making sure the next General Assembly passes a comprehensive education funding and policy plan—based on the upcoming Kirwan Commission recommendations—that fully addresses the state’s annual $2.9 billion K-12 funding shortfall.
“Our state cannot afford to nibble around the edges of our $2.9 billion school funding shortage, and our students can’t afford weak leadership and half-solutions. We need a truly comprehensive plan that will fully implement better teacher pay, a living wage for support staff, universal early childhood education, more planning and development time for teachers, expanded use of community schools, and more mental health professionals.”
Bost will build on the progress of former MSEA President Betty Weller, a Kent County science and English teacher who led the union to many successes in her six years as president including passing: the Protect Our Schools Act, legislation that prevented the privatization of low-performing public schools; the More Learning, Less Testing Act, which has eliminated more than 900 hours of unnecessary standardized testing; the Fix the Fund Act, which if approved by voters in November will increase education funding by $500 million a year; and important fixes to the failed rollout of the state’s Common Core learning standards.
During Weller’s time as president, when many unions have seen declines in power, MSEA grew its membership from 67,000 to 74,000. MSEA is the largest union in Maryland.