And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
On Tuesday, Gov. Hogan held a press conference to highlight a new budget that somehow closed a $544 million deficit without raising taxes or making “serious” funding cuts. Reporters were skeptical. It turns out that the governor wasn’t being 100% accurate with his comments. On Wednesday, The Washington Post ran the headline, “Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget won’t be painless after all.” Among Gov. Hogan’s biggest budget cuts:
· $32 million cut from a variety of programs designed to help reduce poverty in Baltimore City
· $22 million cut from the Prince George’s County regional hospital
· Elimination of 400 positions from the state prison in Hagerstown
· $42 million cut from Baltimore City schools
· $49 million cut from supplemental pension payments
· Frozen salaries for state employees
While the governor’s budget makes these cuts, it does nothing to close corporate tax loopholes, and even includes a $20 million handout specifically for one corporation.
As promised, Gov. Hogan included an increased subsidization of private schools in his budget, increasing the taxpayer burden from $5 million to $7 million. He has proposed increasing the program to $10 million by FY2020. Gov. Hogan had to remove three public school programs from his budget to make room for his private school voucher program:
1. Public Schools Opportunities: $7.5 million for after-school and summer programs
2. Next Generation Scholars: $5 million for college readiness scholarships
3. Teacher Induction and Retention: $8 million to reduce teacher turnover
This expansion of his private school voucher program comes the same week that BOOST received several negative headlines in the press:
· The Baltimore Sun wrote, “most students helped by the program — more than 1,900 — used the money to remain in private schools where they were already enrolled,” in a story that showed the program is not delivering on its promise of helping low-income students get out of so-called struggling public schools.
· Meanwhile, MarylandReporter.com wrote that a new poll puts “voters at odds with Hogan’s…strong support of increased funding for private school scholarships,” after it showed that 68% of voters want education funding to be spent on existing public schools rather than private schools.
That new poll was conducted by Gonzales Research and addressed several additional questions about education funding. As reported by WBAL, it showed four new evidence points for how much Maryland voters value public education:
1. 83% say it is important to have increased funding for public education in Maryland
2. 73% would favor increasing funding for public education in Maryland if this means closing corporate loopholes and raising income taxes on the state’s highest earners
3. 70% favor expanding access to public pre-kindergarten to all four-year-old kids in the state
4. 68% of Free State voters think that school leaders and elected officials in Maryland should focus education funding on improving existing public schools, while 19% believe they should focus education funding on shifting taxpayer dollars to schools under private-sector management, like charter schools and parochial schools
You can read a more detailed analysis of the poll in this MSEA Newsfeed article.
There was huge news this week out of the House Ways and Means Committee. Del. Sheila Hixson (D-Montgomery-District 20), who has chaired the committee since 1993, announced she would step down from her post and take the new title of “chairman emeritus.” Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery-District 14), who previously chaired the Education Subcommittee and served as Majority Leader, will become the new Ways and Means chair. Del. Bill Frick (D-Montgomery-District 16) will take Kaiser’s place as Majority Leader. A new Education Subcommittee chair has not been officially named yet.
On Tuesday night, President Trump’s education secretary-designee, billionaire public school opponent Betsy DeVos, went before the Senate HELP committee for her confirmation hearing — and it didn’t exactly go well. All in the course of a few hours, she was unable to explain the difference between student proficiency and growth, claimed we should allow guns in schools to protect against grizzly bears, argued we should let states ignore federal disabilities law, and refused to commit to not defunding public schools.
Assuming her ethics paperwork is turned in by the end of the day today (that might be a big if) the HELP committee will vote on her confirmation on Tuesday, January 24. Yesterday, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) announced his oppositions to DeVos and two other Trump nominees.
You can urge Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) to vote against Betsy DeVos’ confirmation (and thank Sen. Van Hollen for his opposition) here.
MSEA is once again teaming up with the Working Matters coalition to pass Earned Sick Leave in Maryland. This week, the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (HB1/SB230) was introduced in both the House and Senate. If passed, the legislation would guarantee every Maryland worker up to seven days of sick leave.
On Monday night, MSEA will join coalition partners for a rally on Lawyers Mall in Annapolis to urge legislators to pass the legislation. President Betty Weller will speak, where she will focus on students who are forced to attend school while sick because their parents would be fired for missing work to stay home with them. MSEA members and staff are invited to join the rally.
We encourage all members and staff to participate in tomorrow’s Women’s March, a grassroots effort to push back against President Trump’s intolerance toward many groups of Americans. NEA invites members to start at the NEA building at 7:30 a.m. The Maryland Congressional Delegation is organizing a march launch from the Maryland Ave entrance to the National Museum of the American Indian at 9:30 a.m.
Unsure how to stand up to Donald Trump, Larry Hogan, Betsy DeVos, and the rest of the anti-public education officials in power? Start by donating as much as you can to the MSEA Fund for Children and Public Education. It’s the only way we can raise our voices to compete with the corporate interests trying to privatize our public schools.