And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
Protect public education with hundreds of educators on March 13 at MSEA’s march and lobby night! We have one simple message for legislators: Protect Our Schools. Sign-up and share this link to join us: http://bit.ly/RSVPMarchforMDschools
After holding a press conference focused on protecting our schools from privatization and over-testing with legislative leaders, President Weller and MSEA members zeroed in on reducing standardized testing during bill hearings this week:
· On Tuesday, teachers Rachel McCusker (Carroll) and Casey Day-Kells (Frederick) joined House sponsor Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery-District 14) in asking the House Ways and Means Committee to pass the Less Testing, More Learning Act (HB461/SB452), which would limit federal, state, and district mandated testing to 2% of the school year — 21.6 hours for elementary and middle schools, and 23.4 hours for high schools — reserving 98% of the year for instruction and learning.
· Also on Tuesday, pre-kindergarten teachers Lauren Moskowitz (Montgomery) and Zahava Johnson (Prince George’s) joined House sponsor Del. Haven Shoemaker (R-Carroll-District 5) to testify in favor of legislation delaying the Early Learning Assessment — a standardized test for three- and four-year-olds — until teachers can weigh in on whether it is necessary for student learning and achievement.
· Then on Wednesday, test coordinators Dawn Pipkin (St. Mary’s) and Celia Burton (Prince George’s) joined Senate sponsor Sen. Roger Manno (D-Montgomery-District 19) in urging the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee to pass the Less Testing, More Learning Act. You can check out press coverage of their advocacy on WJZ (CBS Baltimore) and WBFF (Fox Baltimore).
Last week, we talked about the Protect Our Schools Act (HB978/SB871) as part of the five-point plan to stop the Trump-DeVos-Hogan agenda to privatize our schools. We now have bill hearing dates on that important legislation — February 28 in the House Ways and Means Committee and March 8 in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. The bill, which shapes the way Maryland will implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, will:
· Close Opportunity Gaps: The legislation requires the Maryland State Department of Education to include at least three opportunity to learn indicators in our new school accountability system, which could mean class sizes, access to advanced coursework, or other inputs to high-quality education will be highly valued in how we measure school success.
· Reduce High-Stakes Testing: The bill would also limit academic indicators — including test scores — to 51% of the accountability system, which is the smallest percentage it can be under federal law. That means schools will no longer be singularly focused on state test scores, but also how big their class sizes are, how many school counselors they have, and other factors that educators know make a real difference in students’ lives.
· Prevent Privatization: The Protect Our School Act gets its name from provisions that block that State Board of Education from doing two dangerous things: 1. Interfering in local district decisions on how to turn around low-performing schools, and 2. Using failed school privatization techniques, such as charter school conversion and private school voucher programs, to privatize low-performing public schools.
The Baltimore Sun reports that Baltimore City Public Schools officials have received no commitments from state or city leaders to help close a $130 million budget deficit. Despite asking for $65 million in supplemental funding, schools CEO Sonja Santelises has received no firm pledges — even as principals learned this week that traditional schools would see per-student spending plunge by $1,093, or nearly 20 percent from last year. Unless something changes, the city schools could see more than a thousand educator layoffs as well as cuts to arts programming and other components of a well-rounded curriculum. Gov. Hogan has so far declined to help close the budget gap with additional funding, despite the fact that his budget funds the school system at more than $40 million less than last year.
MSEA Executive Director David Helfman joined a CASA de Maryland press conference this week in support of the Trust Act (HB1362/SB835), legislation to limit the state’s cooperation with deportation authorities and prohibit Maryland from implementing a Muslim registry. With President Trump’s administration removing immigrants around the country from their families and instituting an unconstitutional travel ban against Muslims, the proposed bill would help protect Maryland from harmful policies that break up families and go against American values of inclusion and freedom. Many Maryland students would be negatively affected by Trump’s policies if unprotected by new Maryland law.
While Gov. Hogan did not vote for President Trump during the campaign, he has done nothing to stop the president’s harmful agenda since January 20. That includes ignoring Attorney General Brian Frosh’s request to join a lawsuit against Trump’s Muslim ban executive order. In response, the General Assembly passed resolutions to give the attorney general authority to challenge Trump’s illegal actions in court going forward. That now means Gov. Hogan can’t stand in the way if President Trump and Secretary Betsy DeVos take illegal actions to harm Maryland’s public schools and their students.
On Tuesday, HCEA member and Howard County teacher Matthew Vaughn-Smith testified in support of legislation (HB425/SB651) to ban suspensions for young learners, with the caveat that the policy should be for pre-K and kindergarten students only and not extended to first and second graders. During MSEA’s fall representative assembly, MSEA delegates passed an NBI supporting such a policy stance. The legislation also calls for the use of restorative practices in place of suspensions, ensuring there are alternative methods in place for helping students who misbehave in school.
After the Democrats announced new communications staff to push back against Gov. Hogan’s policies to disinvestment in Maryland communities and public institutions, press began reporting that former news anchor and congressional candidate Kathleen Mathews is planning to run for chair of the Maryland Democratic Party.
Unsure how to stand up to Donald Trump, Larry Hogan, Betsy DeVos, and the rest of the anti-public education officials in power? Start by donating as much as you can to the MSEA Fund for Children and Public Education. It’s the only way we can raise our voices to compete with the corporate interests trying to privatize our public schools.