And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
The Protect Our Schools Act is up for an important vote in the Senate. Please send your senator an email or give them a call at 1–888–520–6732 asking them to support the bill. Thank you!
The Protect Our Schools Act (HB978/SB871) continues to move towards passage, with the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee voting to move the bill to the full Senate floor earlier this week. The full Senate has now started to debate the bill with a final vote likely coming early next week. The legislation would balance testing and opportunity to learn indicators in our state’s school accountability system, give educators a voice in how their schools are improved, and prevent the privatization of low-performing schools. In an interview this week, MSEA President Betty Weller explained that it’s time for a change when it comes to how we measure and improve schools: “We’ve lived in a test-and-punish culture and it hasn’t closed the gaps in achievement. We know kids are not going to test their way out of poverty.”
Gov. Hogan’s expected veto threat finally arrived — as first reported by The Baltimore Sun — during a press conference today. In doing so, Gov. Hogan is not only breaking a campaign promise to reduce testing and return education decision-making back to local parents and educators, but he is continuing to pursue the very same privatization agenda as President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (more on her and Hogan teaming up in a bit). He opposes the bill because it prevents his State Board of Education from converting public schools into for-profit charter schools, closing public schools in favor of private school vouchers, or the hiring of a for-profit management company to take over public schools. Simply put, he opposes the bill because the General Assembly is trying to prevent his privatization agenda.
It is likely that the governor will unleash the full force of his political operation to stop the bill’s passage. He and his staff are even accusing teachers of putting themselves before their students — a deeply insulting and personal attack on the hard work you and educators across Maryland do every day. We need all hands on deck to make sure members of the General Assembly know this legislation will help students get a better education. Every call made to a senator today could be the difference between winning and losing.
It’s no coincidence that Gov. Hogan’s veto threat came as he teamed up with Secretary DeVos. The two joined together to visit a Montgomery County public school, reading to kids for a photo-op and then leaving quickly. Meanwhile, hundreds of parents in the local community protested their joint privatization agenda outside of the school, chanting “Public Schools Are a Public Good” in support of public education.
It was a truly grassroots display of how frustrated Maryland voters are with Gov. Hogan’s willingness to help the Trump Administration and its harmful policies — especially when it comes to privatizing schools.
Back in Annapolis, both Senate President Mike Miller (D-Calvert, Charles & Prince George’s-District 23) and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel-District 30A) criticized the governor’s appearance with DeVos. Busch told the Legislative Black Caucus that if DeVos and Hogan get their way, “They’re going to break down the school system.” Miller told reporters at a news conference that Maryland would return to ranking first in the nation for education, “but not with help from Betsy DeVos.”
NEWS AND NOTES
Last week, we mentioned an important school working conditions bill (SB760) that would give teachers the right to request an arbitration hearing — instead of a hearing with an officer hand-picked by the local school board — in suspension or termination cases. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Guy Guzzone (D-Howard-District 13), passed the Senate 32–15 and now moves to the House, that will hopefully begin work on the bill shortly. This would give teachers a much fairer discipline process — a right that ESP members already have.
As directed by a New Business Item during the 2016 fall representative assembly, MSEA has been working with Del. Jimmy Tarlau (D-Prince George’s-District 47A) — a longtime labor champion — to pass legislation (HB1145) prohibiting school systems from punishing an educator for acting as a whistleblower. The bill specifies that educators are protected in reporting three areas of misconduct: (1) an abuse of authority, gross mismanagement, or gross waste of money; (2) a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or (3) a violation of law. We are happy to report that the bill received a unanimous vote in the House of Delegates (139–0) and now moves to the Senate.
In a brand new Washington Post poll, Maryland voters were asked “Which of the following issues do you want Maryland’s governor and state legislature to work hardest on: (the state budget), (the state economy), (public education), (transportation and infrastructure), (drug abuse), (taxes) or something else?” Way out in front was public education, which was named by 38% of voters. The next highest priority for voters was a three-way tie between taxes, the economy, and drug abuse — with 12% of voters selecting those options. With education so clearly the number one priority of voters, it’s no wonder that Gov. Hogan’s education approval rating is a full 15 points below his overall approval rating — which, by the way, went down by six points from the last Washington Post poll.
In an article titled, “Hogan’s deep popularity in Md. weakens when voters consider 2018,” the Washington Post details how despite a 65% approval rating, just 41% of Maryland voters say they plan to vote to re-elect Hogan and 37% say they plan to vote for the Democratic nominee. As the Post writes, “The margin has narrowed since September, when Hogan held a 46 to 30 percent edge over a generic Democrat.” Hogan’s lead has shrunk by 12 points in just a handful of months, perhaps due to his unwillingness to stand up to President Trump.
Former Venable Chairman Jim Shea, a prominent Baltimore lawyer known for his support of Martin O’Malley’s successful bid for governor in 2006, is now considering a run for the state’s highest elected position himself. Shea was chair of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and is a long-time donor to Democratic candidates and causes. It’s possible that he could self-fund a significant part of his campaign, should he decide to run.
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. Gov. Hogan has more than $5 million in cash on hand, and that’s not counting any dark money groups he may have secretly formed. This is the only way we can raise our voices to compete with the corporate interests trying to privatize our public schools.