And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
This morning, the House of Delegates passed their version of a $15 minimum wage bill, 96–44, that has been prioritized by Democratic leadership this session. The legislation (HB 166), as amended by the House Economic Matters Committee, would gradually increase the minimum wage from $10.10 to $11 an hour on January 1, 2020 and then increase by 75 cents per year until it reaches $15 an hour by 2025. The original bill would have increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 2023.
The committee made several amendments to make the increases more manageable for small businesses. They removed a provision that would have tied the minimum wage to inflation after reaching $15 an hour, as well as language that would have raised the wage for tipped workers. Those changes — opposed by the labor coalition pushing the bill — could still be undone by the Senate and a conference committee before reaching the governor’s desk.
The legislation is a core part of MSEA’s legislative priorities this session because it would raise the floor for hourly education support professionals. Not only is the bill expected to raise wages for those making less than $15 an hour in our schools, but it will likely boost wages above $15 an hour to maintain pay differential in salary schedules.
While most education support professionals are paid hourly, there are still many who make annual salaries that fall below what it takes to support a family. MSEA has been advocating for legislation to set a statewide floor at $31,500 in low cost-of-living counties and $36,000 in high cost-of-living counties for these school employees. Higher salaries could then be negotiated beyond that minimum.
The legislation (SB 424), sponsored by Sen. Joanne Benson (D-Prince George’s-District 24), was presented before the Senate Finance Committee this afternoon, where MSEA Treasurer Joe Coughlin and MSEA Board Member Toni Mejias talked about their experiences as education support professionals and the importance of treating all public servants with the respect and dignity of a living wage.
Gov. Hogan’s struggles to pass his education agenda continued this week when the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs (EHEA) Committee voted down his bill (6–4 vote against) to expand the number of P-TECH schools in Maryland. The public school model creates a six-year program that allows students to attain both a high school and associate’s degree through a partnership with tech corporations. IBM has been the most prominent corporate partner.
The model has received national recognition for creating technology specialization pathways through dual enrollment mainly in communities of concentrated poverty. But it is still unproven and there have been reports in New York City, where the model started, that students performed poorly in college level courses and may not have been effectively prepared. A formal study on the P-TECH model is currently underway and is due to release interim results later this year. Before expanding the program further, the Senate Committee decided to wait for evidence of the program’s effectiveness.
EHEA and the House Appropriations Committee held hearings this week for another Hogan education bill: his legislation (HB 156/SB 172) to put charter schools at the front of the line for public school construction funding. According to the Department of Legislative Services, this bill takes $40 million a year that could be used for all public schools right now and dedicates it specifically to charter schools. MSEA provided written and verbal testimony in opposition to the bill.
We are now 10 DAYS away from the March for Our Schools on March 11. RSVPs continue to flood in and buses continue to fill up, but we need as many people as possible to make as loud a statement as possible. Help us break our 5,000 educator attendance goal by RSVPing here and then recruiting five or more of your colleagues today.
New data from the Maryland State Department of Education now shows that average teacher salaries for the 2018–2019 school year are just 1.2% higher than they were last school year, increasing from $69,627 to $70,463. This number varies quite a bit between districts, from $54,036 in Dorchester to $82,316 in Montgomery. You can find the average teacher salary information here.
Maryland’s average teacher salary is now just 89% of median household income. The Kirwan Commission has found that Maryland teachers make 25% less than similarly skilled professionals, with Maryland teacher salaries growing just 12% since the 2008–2009 school year.
Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D-Harford-District 34a) was censured by the House of Delegates yesterday evening following news reports that she used the N-word to describe Prince George’s County when out drinking with other lawmakers in late January. The Washington Post broke the story earlier this week and calls for her resignation started coming in shortly after.
The Legislative Black Caucus, several advocacy groups, and many prominent elected officials have urged the Harford County delegate to step down, including Speaker Michael Busch and his leadership team. After she refused, leadership scheduled the censure vote that passed unanimously (137–0). She has also been removed from all House committees, including the subcommittee and joint committee that she previously chaired.
In presenting the resolution to censure Del. Lisanti, House Majority Leader Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery-District 15) said, “This is a sad day for the House of Delegates when we have to censure one of our own. We are saying as a body that racial slurs cannot and will not be tolerated by this body.”
Wednesday and Thursday saw hearings on several bills aimed at increasing school construction funding in counties with growing student enrollment. Del. Pat Young (D-Baltimore County-District 44B), chair of the Baltimore County delegation and giver of fireside chats, and Senate President Pro Tem Katherine Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County-District 8) presented their bill (HB 1131/SB 758) to fund $750 million in school construction for Baltimore County Public Schools, modeled after the 2013 legislation that funded $1.1 billion in school construction in Baltimore City. House Ways and Means Chair Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery-District 14) and Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery-District 14) have introduced a similar bill (HB 668/SB 641) for Montgomery County (with an increase of $1.1 billion).
The school construction bill with the most likely path forward is Majority Leader Dumais’ bill (HB 727) to increase school construction in all districts with growing enrollment by $1.8 billion in the next five years. The bill is similar to legislation introduced by Gov. Hogan, but would be funded through lottery revenue instead of casino revenue. Several county executives came to Annapolis this week to testify in front of legislative committees to support school construction funding increases. MSEA provided written testimony in support of Del. Dumais’ bill.