First Votes on Blueprint Coming Soon

And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street

From the pre-Blueprint hearing pep rally on February 17. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)


Subcommittee Deliberations Continue to Hammer out Amendments to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future

A joint meeting of the education subcommittees from House Appropriations and House Ways and Means conducted a work session on Thursday when they reviewed 60+ amendments to House Bill 1300, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. The work session was an opportunity for the full subcommittees to discuss amendments proposed by advocates and sponsored by legislators and how they would be included in a mark-up of the bill. The meeting was mostly a conversation and did not lead to any votes on specific amendments. The same subcommittees will see a reprint of the bill on Monday, when they are expected to vote the amended bill to their respective committees. The full committees could then separately debate amendments before reporting the bill to the full House of Delegates. That committee vote could happen as early as Tuesday, March 3. If this subcommittee and committee vote process stays on schedule, we would likely see the Blueprint up for debate on the House floor mid to late next week with a final vote on Friday or Saturday.

The Blueprint (HB 1300/SB 1000) is based on the findings of the Kirwan Commission and would revise the state’s school funding formula for the first time in nearly two decades. Over the next 10 years, the Blueprint calls for billions of dollars of new investment in Maryland schools that would expand career and technical education programs, community schools, and pre-k; provide more resources for students from backgrounds of poverty and students with special needs; increase educator pay; hire more educators; create a new and rigorous accountability system; and a number of other research-backed strategies for improving schools. The Blueprint would comprehensively address the several billion dollars in annual underfunding of Maryland public schools.

Goucher Poll: Marylanders Overwhelming Support Policy Goals Outlined in the Blueprint

The latest findings of the Goucher College Poll showed, once again, that the vast majority of Maryland residents believe that teacher salaries are too low and our schools are underfunded. And when it came to the specific policy goals outlined in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, Marylanders support those as well. Here are the topline findings:

· 93% agree that public schools should offer more job or vocational training programs

· 85% agree that salaries of public school teachers are too low

· 69% agree that the public schools in Maryland don’t receive enough state funding

· 76% agree that many public school buildings and facilities in Maryland are run-down 
 Note: this data point is not related to the Blueprint, but does reflect the need to pass the Built to Learn Act (HB 1).

The Goucher Poll failed to re-ask the question asked in their fall survey concerning whether voters would support paying more in taxes in order to pay for these school improvements. In the September survey, 74% of respondents supported personally paying more in taxes to improve public education.

Blueprint Explainers

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is 170+ pages of legalese packed with important, game-changing impacts on education you want to understand. The bill will add billions of dollars to give every student equal access to a great education with enough educators and resources to succeed. The legislation will change the career and earning potential for educators, remediate the effects of trauma and poverty on students and their classroom behavior, add staff to schools, increase student access to career and technical education and certificates that lead to jobs, and make pre-kindergarten available to all children so they can start their school career prepared. MSEA has broken down the details so you can easily appreciate how important the bill is and share the facts with your friends! Here are the topics to review and share: Career and Technical Education | Community Schools | Pre-k | Professional Salaries and Staffing.


Another Educator Expected to Be Appointed to the House

Prince George’s County adapted physical education teacher Lisa Belcastro won the support of the District 11 (Baltimore County) Democratic Central Committee earlier this week and will be recommended to Gov. Hogan to fill the House of Delegates seat left vacant with the promotion of Shelly Hettleman to the state senate. The governor could hold up the official appointment for several weeks, but Belcastro is expected to be sworn in and join the General Assembly in March.

MSEA Testifies in Support of HBCU Funding Proposal

Prince George’s County teacher and Coppin State graduate Kayla Moore testified in front of the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday in support of House Bill 1260. The legislation seeks to bring resolution to the 13-year dispute between Maryland’s four historically black colleges and universities and the state of Maryland around equitable higher education funding. Settlement proposals over the years from both Governors O’Malley and Hogan have been completely inadequate. The bill requires the parties to settle in exchange for $577 million over the next 10 years. This total is in keeping with the goals of the colleges and has earned their full support.

Sales Tax Proposal Hearing Is Set for Monday, March 2

The House Ways and Means Committee is set to have a hearing on House Bill 1628 on Monday. The bill is a proposal from some Democratic leaders in the House of Delegates to cut the sales tax rate from 6 cents on the dollar to 5 cents. The legislation also expands that lower sales tax rate to professional services that currently are untaxed, including legal services, accounting, engineering, and other business-to-business services. The legislation exempts services related to health care, education, and non-profits, which would continue to be untaxed.

State Board of Education Sets Graduation MCAP/ELA Cutoff at 725

With some compassion and pragmatism, the Maryland State Board of Education on Tuesday backed off a proposal to raise the cutoff score that high school students need on the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) assessments in Algebra I and English language arts/literacy (ELA) to graduate. Board members voted 9–2–1 (David Steiner and Rose Li opposed) to leave the cutoff score at 725 — rather than raise it to 750 — for next year’s freshmen class. WBAL captured the lively discussion and interviewed MSEA President Cheryl Bost, who supported the results of the vote.

Maryland Retains AAA Bond Rating

The nation’s three major bond agencies — Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service, and S&P Global Ratings — reaffirmed Maryland’s coveted triple-A bond rating just ahead of a major sale of general obligation bonds that will be used to support school construction and other capital projects. The state’s interest rate associated with the $800 million bond sale will be cheaper as a result of this top rating, allowing for more projects to be covered with these bonds.


Contact Your Legislators Today and throughout the Legislative Session

In recent years, school 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.

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.