And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
Legislation that educators have been leading on for months finally had hearings on Thursday, as the Constitutional Amendment to Fix the Fund and put a strong lockbox on the Education Trust Fund was taken up by the House Appropriations and Senate Budget and Taxation Committees (HB 1697/SB 1122). The hearings demonstrated broad support for the goals of the bill, but competing lockbox proposals still exist. A strong lockbox that is created via Constitutional Amendment is critical to end the political games and gimmicks of the last two administrations. The lockbox in the Fix the Fund Act is much more preferable than what would be created by standalone legislation that can be amended or ended through the introduction and simple majority action of a future budget reconciliation bill.
Overriding a voter-approved Constitutional Amendment would require a three-fifths super majority. Plus, the act of voters taking action and approving this Constitutional Amendment in November will have the political power of likely dissuading future General Assemblies from even considering unlocking the lockbox. In her testimony, MSEA President Betty Weller noted, “While it is frustrating to have to pass a Constitutional Amendment to do what voters expected to have been done years ago, the last few years have proven just how important it is to lock this funding in place.”
MSEA is marching on March 19 to Fix the Fund and ask the General Assembly to support HB 1697/SB 1122. Please RSVP at this link and help us engage the members and community partners needed to demonstrate strong support.
The Bureau of Revenue Estimates projected the state would realize $433 million in additional revenue for the coming year as a result of the federal tax changes that capped the state and local tax deduction for individual taxpayers. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee responded to this news by advancing a tax cut bill (SB 318) that was amended to return $200 million of this money by increasing the standard deduction for the state income tax by $500 for individuals and $1,000 for married couples. The Committee then recommended holding the rest of the revenue in a new reserve fund to support pending Kirwan Commission recommendations. State Sen. Ed Kasemeyer (D-District 12, Howard and Baltimore) told the Baltimore Sun, “[The Kirwan Commission is] going to require a lot of money. At least it’s a down payment on our getting there.”
Not all of the news coming from the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee was good this week. Their final report, which will be on the Senate floor next week for debate, includes the expansion of BOOST voucher funding as proposed by Gov. Hogan. Despite a recommendation from the Department of Legislative Services to flat-fund the program at FY18 levels, the committee decided to side with Hogan’s expansion to nearly $9 million. The action didn’t happen without a fight. Special thanks to Senators King , Ferguson, Guzzone, Madaleno and Manno for their efforts to limit the voucher program and accept the DLS recommendation.
On the heels of this unfortunate budget action, a new analysis reveals that BOOST sent $315,200 to schools teaching highly controversial curricula. Over the last two years, at least nine schools that reportedly use Bob Jones University and/or A Beka curricula have received vouchers. That means taxpayer dollars are supporting the teaching of evolution as a hoax, feminism as a “disastrous fruit,” and governments being able to force people to say they are Christians. If you don’t want to see taxes going to support the teaching of curricula well outside of the mainstream, call your legislators by dialing 1–888–520–6732 and tell them to end funding for Gov. Hogan’s private school vouchers program.
On Wednesday, West Virginia teachers officially ended their nine-day strike after Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed legislation to raise salaries by five percent. The display of solidarity and force also secured a new state task force to study better health coverage for school employees. One West Virginia reading teacher summed up the victory: “Teachers across the state came together for one goal. It’s not the raise, as much as it is having the respect that we deserve from the government, and I think that was proven today.” MSEA was proud to send several staff organizers to help the cause.
Now other states are looking at following West Virginia’s lead. The Oklahoma Education Association has announced plans to begin a statewide strike on April 2 if the legislature doesn’t address stagnant teacher salaries. Teachers in Arizona have also discussed the possibility of striking and are wearing red this week to gauge interest. And while Maryland’s average teacher salary is roughly $20,000 higher than in West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma, it’s actually lower when taken as a percentage of the states’ respective median household incomes.
On Thursday, former Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance pled guilty to four counts of perjury and agreed to a deal that will have him serving 18 months in jail as part of falsely filing financial disclosure statements with the local board of education. Baltimore County Public Schools issued the following statement in response to the guilty plea: “We are saddened by the news but trust the judicial process. Now, we must stay focused on our students, our school system, and the important work of teaching and learning that takes place in classrooms every day. Our 113,000 students, 21,000 employees, and the Baltimore County Public Schools community deserve no less.”
On Sunday, shocking news started to circulate from Harford County about the unexpected death of Sen. Wayne Norman (R-District 35, Harford and Cecil). His legislative colleagues are remembering his life with a funeral service today. Norman learned last week that he faced no opposition for re-election — as neither a primary nor a general election opponent filed against him. While the political maneuvering to fill the seat and plan for the election did not overshadow the remembrances expressed this week, there were deadlines that the Republican Central Committee faced in order to have a candidate on the ballot. The Central Committee met that deadline and recommended Jason Gallion to be Gov. Hogan’s appointee to fill the remainder of Norman’s term. But, Gallion is not expected to be the Senate candidate after the primary. In moves that are explained by Maryland Matters, the District 35 Central Committee is orchestrating efforts to ultimately have Gallion run for the House of Delegates, while current Del. Teresa Reilly (R-District 35B) would be the party’s choice to seek the full Senate term in the November general election.
State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Rich Madaleno picked up endorsements in the last week, headlined by Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-District 8) and including 27 other elected officials and community leaders. On Thursday, Madaleno also announced the endorsement of LiUNA, the 3,000+ construction workers who live and work in Maryland.
Congressman Anthony Brown endorsed businessman David Trone for Congress in the 6th District (portions of Montgomery and Frederick, and all of Washington, Allegany, and Garrett). The Brown endorsement comes just two weeks after gubernatorial candidate and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker endorsed Trone.