And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
Earlier this week, Democrats on the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs (EHEA) Committee advanced legislation (SB 128) to return autonomy over school calendar decisions to local school boards, reversing Gov. Hogan’s 2016 post-Labor Day school start executive order. The bill — sponsored by Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s-District 24) and co-sponsored by Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery-District 39) — was passed on a party line vote, 7–4.
Yesterday, Gov. Hogan responded by announcing his own legislation to codify his executive order into statute with the option for counties to receive autonomy if their voters approve such an exception through referendum. He decried “special interest” opposition despite the fact that the only for-profit interests in the debate (the tourism industry) support his executive order, and then threatened the General Assembly that if they pass the legislation, he’ll work to petition the new law to the ballot in 2020.
Following his press conference, the Maryland Senate began debating the bill and defeated several Republican-sponsored amendments to water down or kill the bill. They continued that debate today and are expected to take up a final vote on Tuesday.
This legislation (HB 87/SB 529) sponsored by Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore and Howard-District 12) in the House and Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery-District 14) in the Senate, would add three seats to the State Board of Education: two current certified teachers (elected by all teachers in the state) and one parent of a current public school student.
Yesterday, MSEA President Cheryl Bost and MCEA President Chris Lloyd testified in support before the House Ways and Means Committee, citing the need to have teacher voices at the table for state-level education policy decision-making. Following the hearing, the Education Subcommittee voted in favor of the legislation along party lines, sending the bill to the full committee.
Today, the full Ways and Means Committee voted to approve the bill (16–7), sending it to the full House of Delegates, who will vote on it as soon as next week.
It was a very busy week for education issues in the legislature this week with many important bills receiving hearings before various committees.
· Trauma-Informed Instruction Pilot (HB 256/SB 223): Sponsored by Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery-District 20) in the House and Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D-Baltimore County and Baltimore County-District 44) in the Senate, this bill creates a pilot program for several schools to begin using trauma-informed instruction strategies. Dr. Donna Christy, a member of the MSEA Board of Directors and a Prince George’s County school psychologist, testified in support of the legislation before the Senate EHEA Committee.
· $15 Minimum Wage (HB 166/SB 280) Sponsored by Del. Diana Fennell (D-Prince George’s-District 47A) in the House and Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City-District 45) in the Senate, this legislation would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023, helping to lift wages for thousands of education support professionals. Calvert Association of Educational Support Staff Vice President and instructional assistant Paris Brown testified before the House Economic Matters Committee in support.
· Hogan’s “Accountability” Bill (HB 45/SB 92): Sponsored by Gov. Hogan, this bill would create an inspector general, chosen by his own political appointees, to investigate public school systems for the purpose of creating negative publicity about our public education system. MSEA submitted written testimony to the Senate EHEA Committee urging an unfavorable report.
To win on competitive teacher salaries, adequate staffing levels, expanded pre-K and CTE, more equitable funding, and more, we need to show up and unify our voices for a new funding formula. That’s why we hope you will join thousands of educators (and parents, students, and other public education allies) for the March for Our Schools on March 11. RSVP here and then recruit five or more of your friends today.
For a decade, Maryland finished first in the nation for Advanced Placement performance. That ended in 2016 when Maryland fell to second, where it stayed in 2017. But on the 2018 AP exams, Maryland fell to 4th in the nation as Connecticut and Florida leaped ahead. It’s the latest indication — following drops in rankings on NAEP and Education Week’s national rankings — that show Maryland’s schools need a new investment in funding to get back to leading the country in academic performance.
That increased investment should in large part come from increased casino gaming revenue. Fresh off the overwhelming passage of Question 1 on the November ballot — which requires the governor and General Assembly to ensure casino gaming revenue supplements existing school funding — the state’s casinos saw 7.2% growth in revenue during January 2019 over this time last year. Five of the state’s six casinos saw growth, with Hollywood Casino Perryville the only to see a small decline. Altogether, Maryland’s casinos brought in nearly $137 million in January.
We learned this week that Sen. Will Smith (D-Montgomery-District 20), an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves, will deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Resolute Support on March 29, shortly before the end of the General Assembly session. Sen. Smith is the vice chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and is the Senate chair of the Maryland Veterans Caucus. We wish Sen. Smith a safe tour of duty and thank him for his service to our country.
We have a very important bill hearing next week on one of MSEA’s top priorities: the ESP Living Wage bill (HB 479/SB 424). The legislation, sponsored by Del. Eric Ebersole in the House and Sen. Joanne Benson (D-Prince George’s-District 24) in the Senate, would create a living wage floor for education support professionals at $31,500 a year in lower cost-of-living counties and $36,000 in higher cost-of-living counties by July 2023. After that, the floor raises with inflation. This minimum does not remove the collective bargaining process and instead merely requires districts to agree to contracts that do not go below that floor. MSEA will bring a panel to testify in support before the Ways and Means Committee on Valentine’s Day.