Getting the Blueprint Right Means …

Cecil County educators rallied at a county budget hearing to call for the school funding they need to serve their students.

With $1.1 billion in new funding from the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future bill headed to local school systems in the next three years — and possibly more on the way after the 2020 General Assembly rewrites the school funding formula — we have the opportunity to dramatically improve our schools and our profession.

Making sure this money is spent on the right things, such as salaries, staffing, and expanding student programs, is in the hands of local elected officials. Our job is to make sure that the implementation of the Blueprint is done right.

“This incredible victory shows what’s possible when we use our collective voice and power to stand up for our schools. It’s also a sign of things to come — we’re going to keep it up and keep fight­ing for the funding and programs that we need until they become a reality.” — MSEA President Cheryl Bost on passage of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future

We’ve dealt in the past with federal, state, or local programs that became impossible to implement well because there simply wasn’t enough time, money, or leadership to back up successful on-the-ground execution. The Kirwan Commission recommendations are different. Now there is funding and mandated oversight so the money is used as intended on the recommended reforms — increased salaries and staff, community schools, mental health supports, and more. With the recommendations and the Blueprint in place, the ball is in the court of local school systems to make the most of it.

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“Our greatest opportunity for the best possible implementation of the Blueprint is our strong collective bargaining power in every county, and competent, committed boards of education and county officials who understand how very badly our students need these resources,” said MSEA President Cheryl Bost.

As locals entered contract negotiations around the state this spring, members have already been taking action to secure the funding for the Blueprint salary increases.

Members rallied at a Carroll County budget hearing chanting : “We are CEA STRONG!”

They showed up at budget hearings and county councils across the state. At a budget hearing in May, Carroll County Education Association President Teresa McCulloh led members in a rallying cry — the finale to months of meetings and member rallies: “WE ARE CCEA STRONG!”

Their recent tentative agreement includes the salary and working conditions the union fought for. “The Board recognized that our members are willing to make their voices heard,” said McCulloh. “Vitally important to our members is that we reached our agreement in time to take advantage of the Blueprint’s matching funds that add 1.5% to the county’s salary increase of 3%.”

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In Cecil County, members rallied to support school funding. “We wore our Red for Ed at the budget hearing,” said Lori Hrinko, president of the Cecil County Classroom Teachers Association, “and we spoke up to let our county council know that funding schools is our top priority.” Like Carroll County, the Cecil County budget will support the 3% required by the Blueprint for teachers to receive the additional 1.5% salary increase.

But there’s still work to do. In Harford County, where per pupil spending is lowest in the state and class size the largest, educators showed up at their county council budget meetings fighting to raise revenue for schools and pushing back against dramatic cuts in teacher positions. The teachers’ contract, their best in 10 years, includes an average of a 4.5% increase for the next five years, taking advantage of the Blueprint’s 1.5% boost. But still, nearly 100 teaching positions remain on the chopping block.

Harford County educators showed up strong for a rally in May.

“The council didn’t heed the call of educators and parents,” said Chrystie Crawford-Smick, the Harford County Education Association president. “We may have won historic funding increases from Annapolis, but we won’t quit until we have what we need from our county too.”

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The 2020 election cycle — high on the national radar — is also on the radar of education activists here in Maryland. Nearly every school district will be electing school boards. The make-up of each will have everything to do with how well the Kirwan recommendations are implemented.

“We have to educate ourselves about what the resources mean to students and the changes they will make to their lives. And we have to be prepared to share that information with elected leaders, candidates, and voters. Everyone who cares about our schools needs to understand what’s at stake,” Bost explained.

MSEA’s political action committee (PAC), the Fund for Children and Public Education, is the way MSEA can have influence in elections. The money raised every year, including at the MSEA Representative Assembly, is the way educators get in the game. “We can’t use dues dollars for candidates, but we can raise money to support local pro-education candidates through our PAC,” said MSEA PAC co-chair Nikki Woodward. “The candidates we support are interviewed, vetted, and endorsed through our transparent, rigorous process. Every election comes down to organized people and organized money — and we need both.”

Learn more about MSEA’s PAC at