Freedom to Read Is Law, More Pro-Education Bills Signed

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

Educators witness the signing of the Freedom to Read Act–to protect students, media specialists, and books–one of laws that MSEA helped pass this year.


Governor Sign Bills to Protect Freedom to Read, Strengthen Profession

With educators, bill sponsors, and legislative leaders beside him on April 25, the governor signed the Freedom to Read Act into law and made Maryland one of the first states to lead against politicized attacks from extremist activists seeking to ban books and deny students access to resources. This was one of MSEA’s priorities for the 2024 legislative session, and it became part of House Speaker Adrienne Jones’ Decency Agenda. Thanks to sponsors Del. Dana Jones (D-Anne Arundel), and Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery), this law protects books, media specialists, readers, and students (see previous Up the Street coverage).

Other new laws and MSEA priorities signed by Moore on April 25 set the stage to reduce the educator shortage that is impacting school systems across the state. Pathways into the education profession for aspiring educators will expand now that House Bill 945/Senate Bill 771 sponsored by Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore County) and Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City and County) was signed into law. Aspiring educators will now have more ways to demonstrate their qualifications to enter the profession (see previous Up the Street coverage).

Grow Your Own Educator legislation, House Bill 1157/Senate Bill 227, sponsored by Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery) and Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s), will help support education support professionals who want to become certified teachers. Alterations to the teacher development and retention program, Senate Bill 377/House Bill 75, sponsored by Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery) and Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore County), will provide financial assistance to aspiring educators who begin their studies at any community college in the state, expanding assistance made available to students at other institutions last year (see previous Up the Street coverage).

Other bills signed into law on April 25 included a fund to help stabilize community school families’ housing, sponsored by Sen. Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore County), Senate Bill 370, and Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery), House Bill 428 (see previous Up the Street coverage), and  House Bill 1441, sponsored by Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard), which honors the tenure of experienced pre-k educators and spares them from additional credentialing requirements so that they may continue to support classrooms (see previous Up the Street coverage).


Wright Named Permanent Schools Superintendent, Launches Assessment Study

With the announcement that Interim State School Superintendent Carey Wright has been appointed to the job permanently, MSEA will continue prioritizing the voices of educators in policy decisions being made by the Maryland State Department of Education and the State Board of Education. “We look forward to working with Dr. Wright,” said MSEA President Cheryl Bost. “We’ve appreciated the opportunity to build the foundations of a good working relationship with her during her time as interim superintendent. As superintendent, we hope that she will prioritize ensuring that educator voices are at the table in helping to make decisions that impact our schools, students, and critical issues like ending the educator shortage and implementing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.”

Wright, who will continue as interim until July 1 when her four-year term begins, has launched a major initiative relating to assessments. She announced this week that she wants to establish a task force to examine the way schools and students are assessed by the Maryland Report Card and the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP), respectively. The task force will study the relationship between the number of stars schools are assigned on the Report Card’s five-star scale and students’ MCAP scores in English language arts, math, and science, among other items. The task force, which will include local superintendents, principals, and higher education representatives, is to report to the State Board of Education in December, ahead of the 2025 legislative session. MCAP rolled out four years ago, during the pandemic, to replace the PARCC test.

“Educators have long advocated for an accountability and assessment system that is less dependent on mandated standardized tests that take away far too much time from instruction, narrow curriculum, and ultimately tell us more about a child’s socioeconomic background than their unique qualities as a student,” said MSEA President Bost in a statement responding to Wright’s plans. “Accountability systems should support and encourage dynamic teaching and learning for all students and educators; its primary aim must be to support schools, not label them. We hope that educator voices will be heard loud and clear on the task force, as educators best understand the impact that assessments have on their classrooms and students and how they could help, rather than distract from, the learning that goes on in our schools every day.”

Comptroller Reveals Significance of Unrecognized Immigrant Labor

The April edition of Comptroller Brooke Lierman’s inaugural State of the Economy series featured illuminating data about the strength derived from immigrant labor. Immigrants represent more than 21% of people in the Maryland workforce, and they have a higher labor participation rate than U.S. born Marylanders. That, she said, is critical, given the current low unemployment rate, and high job vacancy rate of three jobs for every job seeker. The point was brought home tragically the same month, when the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed and killed six immigrants who were at work on the bridge. She highlighted a need for broader employment opportunities and services to support non-native Marylanders, who can be prevented from reaching their full earning and taxpaying potential. Maryland’s educators are on the front lines of helping to prepare students from immigrant homes to have opportunities to pursue their dreams.

Salary Report Finds Educator Pay Gap between Comparable Professionals Worsening

In Maryland as in the nation, while educator salaries have gone up, and union educators are doing better than non-union counterparts, the educator pay gap persists according to the latest National Education Association (NEA) salary report. The pay gap between Maryland teachers and comparably educated professionals with similar experience is 74 cents on the dollar (in other words, teachers earn 74% of the salary of their comparison points). For education support professionals (ESPs), the financial situation is much worse and underscores the importance of MSEA’s ongoing ESP Bill of Rights campaign.

On average nationally, teacher pay has not kept up with inflation over the past decade, and teachers are making 5% less than they did a decade ago. Union strength is the one consistent bulwark. Starting salaries in states with collective bargaining is $1,653 more than in states without collective bargaining; top pay for ESPs is nearly $13,000 higher in states with bargaining. Unions have the power and opportunity to change conditions for the better. Students suffer when low pay contributes to the chronic educator shortage.


Early Voting Opens; U.S. House Candidates Spread Message, Gain Supporters

Early voting began May 2 and will be available through May 9, every day, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Voters can find where to vote early here, and they can find educator-recommended candidates in their district at

In the congressional District 3 race, new endorsements for Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel) include Howard County Council Members Christiana Rigby (D) and Opel Jones (D). “We share a commitment to education and healthy inclusive communities in Maryland,” Elfreth posted on X. In the 6th District race, Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery) launched a TV ad distinguishing himself as a values-driven candidate.

Trone Endorsements Highlighted in New Ads including Prominent Prince Georgians

In the Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate, a notable endorsement came in for U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) from the elected official he succeeded in the 6th District , John Delaney (D). The Trone campaign featured new ads highlighting his support from prominent Prince Georgians, including Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy (D), state Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George’s), and local county council members. A complete list of Trone’s endorsements is on his campaign website.