And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
Maryland has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create world-class schools that meet the needs of all students, but it will require the General Assembly to pass a new school funding formula this year. That work will be part of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and will be the top priority for MSEA this session. Additionally, during the 2020 legislative session, MSEA will fight for expanded investments in school construction through the Built to Learn Act and for fair and progressive tax policies that will enable the state and local governments to pay for these new operating and capital investments. We will also continue to lead the coalition to reject vouchers and public funding of private schools in addition to opposing discrimination in any school that receives public dollars. Finally, MSEA will push several bills this year to strengthen workers’ rights and expand collective bargaining and will always fight to support students inside and outside of the classroom.
Please review and share MSEA’s legislative priorities for 2020 with elected officials, allies, members, and friends.
The 441st session of the Maryland General Assembly gaveled in on Wednesday, January 8 and saw something that had not happened in 33 years: new leadership elected in both the State House and State Senate. Speaker Adrienne Jones (D, District 10, Baltimore Co) and President Bill Ferguson (D, District 46, Baltimore City) were unanimously elected to lead their respective chambers through one of the most consequential sessions in decades. While celebrating the new leaders in the House and Senate, both bodies also took time to honor the leaders who came before them. Much of the House’s first session was in remembrance of the late Speaker Michael Busch, who died on the 89th day of the session in 2019. The Senate adopted a new rule to honor Senator Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. (D, District 27, Prince George’s and Calvert) as the permanent Senate President Emeritus of the Maryland Senate.
It is an exciting time and both presiding officers have pledged their strong support to take advantage of this unique opportunity to improve our public school system with the adoption and funding of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. There are a lot of days and a lot of work to go between the start of session and Sine Die adjournment on April 6at midnight; but the excitement and hopefulness that was part of the Wednesday festivities will be a lasting image of this year’s session.
Up the Street will be here to deliver updates, calls to action, and pathways to victory for students, educators, public schools, and the state of Maryland. Let’s get started!
The presiding officers aren’t the only changes in Annapolis. Since the session adjourned last year, there are six new members who have come to the House or Senate by way of appointments from Governor Hogan (based on recommendations from Democratic or Republican Central Committees). More new legislators are on the way, once vacancies in District 11 (in the Senate and likely also the House) are filled later this winter. Maryland Matters had a good story to get to know the six newcomers.
New delegates and senators are assigned to one of the six standing committees in the House or four standing committees in the Senate and some of those committees have new chairs, vice chairs, and members. Check out all of the updated House and Senate committee assignments. When you click on either of those links, you will also be directed to the new General Assembly website. The revamp includes easier to navigate searches and will hold written testimony from bill hearings in the future.
Gov. Larry Hogan’s decisions as governor, particularly related to transportation projects that could enhance the value of his real estate holdings through his private financial dealings, are under renewed scrutiny following a bombshell piece from Washington Monthly that draws a comparison between Hogan’s actions with those of President Trump in that they are both real-estate executives who maintained ownership and executive stakes in their private businesses while in office. Hogan has dismissed the story, but its timing — in light of Hogan’s own focus on toughening ethics laws — will make for an interesting political undertone for this session. For their parts, both Speaker Jones and President Ferguson expressed concerns regarding the allegations and suggested the State Ethics Commission could review more.
It usually takes a few weeks for bill hearings to get started, but not this year. Standing committees started hearings as early as Thursday, getting a jump start on some of the 175 bills that were filed before the start of session. While this is a slightly higher number of prefiled bills than other years, we still expect nearly 3,000 bills to be introduced during the 2020 legislative session.
It’s been nearly 20 years since Maryland last updated how we fund our schools. In recent years, funding has become woefully inadequate and inequitable — and it shows:
· Half of educators are working second jobs to make ends meet.
· Every school in the state is annually underfunded by, on average, $2 million.
· Maryland spends 5% less on schools serving students in poverty.
The General Assembly can change that by revising Maryland’s school funding formula. And to demonstrate the broad-based support and ensure voices of educators and pro-public education allies are reflected in the final proposal, we must make our voices are heard.
Here’s what a new funding formula would mean:
• Dramatically increasing educator pay
• Hiring thousands more educators to increase individual attention for students and to expand teacher planning and collaboration time
• Expanding career technical education, community schools, and pre-k
• More equitably funding schools by 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 measures to ensure that the new funding reaches classrooms rather than central offices
Our kids can’t wait any longer for the funding and support that they deserve! Click here to email your legislators and urge them to pass a new funding formula that will be a game-changer for our students and schools.