And other legislative updates in this month’s Up the Street
Unfortunately, but not unpredictably, Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future on May 7. He said the coronavirus crisis required him to veto new spending, but the truth is he had never supported the legislation and has not seen the connection the Blueprint has to the state’s economic recovery from the pandemic. When he vetoed the sweeping reform of education funding and initiatives he also abandoned a bill, the Built to Learn Act, that would put $2.2 billion into school construction for much-needed new and replacement facilities. With our allies, MSEA is lobbying for an override of the governor’s veto as soon as the General Assembly convenes next.
Several Blueprint programs would have begun on July 1 if the bill had become law, including: implementation administrators at the local and state level would have been selected, more community schools would have become eligible so that wraparound services could benefit the most at-need students, grants would have increased to universities serving aspiring teachers from historically underrepresented populations, and incentives and support would have expanded for teachers and early childhood education providers. A more complete description of what we would have seen begin next school year, and what is lost because of Hogan’s veto, is published on MSEA Newsfeed.
Our kids can’t wait any longer for the funding and support they deserve, and it’s more important than ever that we address the inequities impacting too many students and communities. Thank legislators for their past support of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and urge them to override the veto as soon as possible.
MSEA joins the world in mourning George Floyd following his murder by Minneapolis police. We demand justice and action for him, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, and the countless others who have died for being Black in America. And we stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and the hundreds of thousands of protestors on the frontlines that are winning meaningful changes to the very systems that have allowed racism and inequities to exist for far too long. Many of these protestors are our members and our students. President Obama tweeted about these youth-led groups, including students in Howard County, that are enacting real change. Click here to find resources from MSEA, NEA, and other organizations for combatting institutional racism.
With the end of the school year happening away from school buildings, the coronavirus has left an indelible mark on this year and dramatically changed the outlook for the future. Distance learning that has been in use — and possibly will be a factor for some time — continues to raise concerns for educators and families. MSEA commissioned a poll to determine exactly what troubles educators and families most so we can address the issues at the state and local level.
More than 80% of teachers report serious concern about distracted students who lack the motivation that they would have in a classroom with in-person instruction. More than 70% of parents report concerns that their child is losing a well-rounded school experience and the socialization and extracurricular engagement that is so important for the whole student. More than 80% of educators are concerned about the stress of the pandemic and disruption in normal activities on students and adults. They expect to need more mental health supports when they do return to school buildings, a finding that was also reported by the National Education Association.
For the nearly 50% of Maryland students who live in poverty or need special education, distance learning is even more inadequate. The disparity in inequity for some populations that was present before the pandemic is now more glaring. Our Black and Brown students disproportionately suffer more poverty and trauma, have less access to technology and healthcare, and greater food insecurity that impair successful distance learning. The Maryland Longitudinal Data Service reported on May 27 to the State Board of Education that a survey of technology connectivity with students found that in three of 24 districts less than 50% of students had access, and in one district, only 25% of students are connected. Students are missing out on meaningful instruction and will fall behind their peers, creating a new challenge for their teachers next year. These needs will require additional staff and support that MSEA is insisting must be accounted for in local reopening plans.
Our poll findings are clear that while distance learning is not seen as on par with in-person learning, more than 90% of voters agree that schools should wait to open when enough personal protective equipment is available and safe conditions are possible. That includes arranging for a wide array of conditions that conform to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health department guidelines, such as social distancing in class, buildings, at meals, and during transportation to and from school. MSDE’s recovery plan to reopen schools contains many options to consider and issues no mandates. No one-size-fits-all answers exist. MSEA has made clear to MSDE that all districts need to include the voices of teachers, paraeducators, bus drivers, and other ESPs before finalizing their unique reopening plans.
MSEA President Cheryl Bost shared some of this polling data this week and provided this renewed demand to hear the voice of educators during a joint hearing of the House Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees (starting at the 1:36:00 mark of the hearing).
MSEA’s Learn More at 4 on our Facebook page has been a regular forum where members find answers and reassurance. The June 3 “Learn More at 4” featured a coronavirus and schools update, a conversation with Sen. Chris Van Hollen about federal school assistance, and a panel including Ben Jealous, author, retired teacher, and psychotherapist Ann Todd Jealous (Ben’s mother), and NEA Director for Community Advocacy Merwyn Scott discussing racial justice. The June 10 episode featured three students from the Minority Scholars Program in Montgomery County. They described their experience with systemic racism, expressed their longing for racial justice and call to always challenge racial inequities. As the school year ends, Learn More at 4 will shift from a weekly to a monthly production, with the next episode scheduled for July 15.
Maryland’s June 2 primary election was the first ever statewide election conducted mostly by mail. The results are still being counted and the state and local boards of elections have a lot of lessons to learn if the general election is to repeat the vote by mail process. Despite the delayed receipt of ballots and already-decided presidential nominees in both parties, we saw increased turnout throughout the state. MSEA-recommended candidates did very well, including every candidate in a competitive local board of education race making it through the primary and to the November general election. Look to www.MDAppleBallot.com for details on those recommended candidates and for updates related to election deadlines and answers to frequently asked questions about this incredibly consequential election.