Freedom to Read Act Passes out of Committee

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


Freedom to Read Act Ready to Move to Floor Vote

The Freedom to Read Act sets standards to prevent the kinds of politically motivated book bans that are emerging around the state, received favorable votes with amendments in the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee and the Ways and Means Committee on Thursday. The vote was 8-3 in the Senate and 15-6 in the House, with both votes along party lines. This legislation protects against the politicized attacks we have seen from right-wing activists around the state who have tried to ban books and make it more difficult for readers and students who seek to study honest and accurate history. Senate Bill 738/House Bill 785, sponsored by Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery) and Del. Dana Jones (D-Anne Arundel), will protect library media specialists and librarians from such attacks and retribution.

Revenue Estimates Down; Tax Code Change Would Help State, Working Families

The state’s immediate fiscal outlook did not improve yesterday, when the Board of Revenue Estimates (BRE) announced that the state’s revenue projections are lower for this fiscal year and FY25 than previously anticipated. The BRE, which consists of Comptroller Brooke Lierman, Treasurer Dereck Davis, and Budget Secretary Helene Grady, voted Thursday to lower revenue projections for fiscal 2024 by $120.3 million, and for fiscal 2025 by $134.9 million.

Several local government leaders joined a press conference this week to advocate for the FairShare Maryland change in the tax code, supported by the Fair Funding Coalition (of which MSEA is a part), that would increase revenue by billions of dollars and give working families a tax break. The plan would require corporations and the wealthiest 1% to pay their fair share, reduce the burden on working families, and raise $1.6 billion in revenue.

Several county executives joined the press conference, including Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D), who underscored the inequities in the current system. “A third of our largest corporations paid zero income tax…the wealthiest 1% of our residents pay a smaller share of their income than the rest of us,” Pittman said.

Bill to Keep Public School Jobs Public Heard in Senate

MSEA is keeping the pressure on to pass legislation that puts guardrails around subcontracting public school jobs. Senate Bill 1043, to make such contracts more transparent, and strengthen their oversight and employee protections (see previous Up the Street coverage), was heard on Wednesday in the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee. Witnesses in favor included AFSCME Local 2250 President Martin Diggs, Howard County Education Association President Ben Schmitt, and representatives from SEIU Local 500, the Baltimore Teachers Union, and MSEA. SB1043 is sponsored by Sen. Dawn Gile (D-Anne Arundel), and the crossfile is House Bill 1175, sponsored by Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard).

MSEA Works on Refinements for Expanded Educator Licensure Pathways

This week one of MSEA’s priorities—to expand pathways for educators to enter the profession—may move out of committee. Since successful hearings on House Bill 945/Senate Bill 771 in the House and Senate, MSEA has been collaborating with the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, Maryland State Department of Education, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board, and bill sponsors to refine the bill that would expand the pathways open to aspiring educators while keeping standards high. The House and Senate legislation sponsored, respectively, by Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore County) and Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City and County), is one way to address the acute educator shortage affecting Maryland (see previous Up the Street coverage). MSEA seeks to support highly qualified educators with expanded pathways and a reduced reliance on biased testing requirements.

Grow Your Own Bill Heard in Senate, Invests in Support Professionals Becoming Teachers

MSEA members testified and contributed to a positive hearing Wednesday in the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee on Senate Bill 937, a bill to support the establishment of grow your own educator programs to assist education support professionals (ESPs) who want to become certified teachers (see previous Up the Street coverage). Sponsored by Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s), SB937 is crossfiled as House Bill 1157, sponsored by Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery).


National Project to Explore Three Million Educators’ Experiences

Education Week has undertaken a new annual project, “The State of Teaching,” using its nationally representative data to “shed light on the experiences, attitudes, and morale” of more than three million educators “to portray the reality of teaching and help guide more effective policies and practices.” The data includes a Teacher Morale Index, with a wide range of findings that are particularly noteworthy during this time of educator shortages across the country. The Teacher Morale Index finds morale nationwide at a -13 on a scale ranging from +100 to -100 (higher scores correspond to higher morale). The Index found lower morale among teachers working in elementary education, in urban settings, who are earlier in their career, and who are white or of two or more races.

In State of the Union, Biden Highlights Education and Unions

In his State of the Union address before Congress last night, President Joe Biden touched on education and the importance of unions several times during his remarks. Biden called out extremist censorship efforts: “stop denying another core value of America—our diversity across American life. Banning books. It’s wrong! Instead of erasing history, let’s make history!” He also called for raises for educators, expanded access to pre-school for three- and four-year-olds, and further connecting high schools with businesses “so students get hands-on experience and a path to a good-paying job whether or not they go to college.” With United Autoworkers President Shawn Fain in attendance as one of the president’s guests, Biden emphasized that “unions make all the difference…and unions built the middle class.”


Senate Candidate Trone Gains SEIU Locals’ Endorsement

This week SEIU 32BJ and SEIU Local 500 endorsed U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) in the Democratic primary race to fill the Senate seat from which Sen. Ben Cardin (D) is retiring. The unions collectively represent more than 30,000 members across the state, including education support professionals in some districts. A complete list of Trone’s endorsements, including from MSEA and the National Education Association, is on his campaign website.