And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
On Wednesday, Gov. Wes Moore presented a $63.1 billion fiscal year 2025 budget, Senate Bill 360/House Bill 350, that fully funds the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and further underscores his commitment to education. Moore said his budget is designed to make Maryland safer, more affordable, and more competitive, and he acknowledged that the state’s competitiveness depends on strong K-12 public schools and a reduction in childhood poverty, among other central administration principles.
Among its plans, the proposed budget:
In general, legislative leaders responded positively to the proposed budget. House Appropriations Chair Ben Barnes (D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel) highlighted the budget’s full funding of the Blueprint in his analysis of the budget to reporters, while noting that the legislature would look towards long-term funding solutions for the Blueprint in the out-years. Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chair Guy Guzzone (D-Howard) echoed that long-term outlook, noting that the Blueprint “is an opportunity to do something very important for the future of our kids. We want to live up to that commitment, so we will take that role very seriously.” Moore’s budget trimmed back historical spending levels in several areas, including in higher education through cuts to the Cade funding formula for community colleges; legislative leaders flagged that this would be an area they may look into as they work on the budget.
The Senate will consider the budget first this year.
Essential strides have been made now that MSEA has obtained sponsors for legislation addressing significant bills that would advance our 2024 priorities. Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City and Baltimore County) and Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore County) are sponsoring legislation to expand certification pathways for aspiring educators, Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery) are sponsoring grow-your-own legislation to support education support professionals looking to become teachers in their career path, and Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel) and Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard) are sponsoring a Blueprint adjustments bill to address inequities across job categories in the career ladder and further support educators who are working in shortage areas. These bills all have the potential to help address the top education issue statewide: the educator shortage.
On Thursday, in a Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee briefing on the Contributing Factors of Chronic Truancy in the Maryland Public School System, testimony from MSEA President Cheryl Bost, Education Support Professionals of Baltimore County President Jeannette Young, and MSEA Political and Legislative Affairs Director Samantha Zwerling informed senators about real experiences dealing with students who are absent and suggested policy solutions. For example, Young discussed how school staff collaborate to make sure students don’t fall through the cracks. She emphasized the need to fully staff schools so educators can support students and families before students become chronically absent or truant.
The House Appropriations and Ways and Means committees will receive a joint briefing at 1 p.m. today concerning the Blueprint by the Blueprint Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). With the first year’s implementation plans in place since July, the AIB, in charge of statewide plan oversight, changed some of the expectations for the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) and MSDE, and extended some 2024 deadlines for school districts.
This year, the Blueprint implementation plans submitted by MHEC and MSDE will have to have more specifics about their roles, stakeholder involvement, and coordination with other agencies to ensure high school graduates are well prepared for college or career, and to encourage students to pursue careers in education. MHEC and MSDE are to jointly develop teacher training requirements. The AIB accepted MHEC’s 2023 draft plan and requested more detail concerning the ways it will coordinate with organizations in addition to MSDE.
In November, the AIB extended the time that school districts had to submit plans and reduced the number of questions to be answered by March 15, 2024. The districts’ systemwide plans are still due March 15, but they will have until May 1 to submit more granular implementation details.
On Thursday, Gov. Moore signed an executive order establishing the Governor’s Office for Children, which will by led by Carmel Martin, a former assistant secretary for policy and budget at the U.S. Department of Education. The office will engage with partners at various levels of government and the private sector to address areas like education, housing, and food insecurity and their relation to the wellbeing of children.
To help with the State Board of Education’s superintendent search, a survey developed by Hazard, Young, and Attea (HYA) Associates is collecting public perceptions of MSDE, schools, and the “desired characteristics” of the next state superintendent. To respond to the survey visit this link. The state board hired HYA to work with state board’s superintendent search committee. State board member and elected educator representative Rachel McCusker serves on the committee. HYA’s search team includes Monique Brown, a former superintendent of schools in New Jersey; Henry Johnson Jr., former assistant state superintendent of curriculum, assessment and accountability at MSDE; and Jack Smith, former interim superintendent of Maryland public schools. Interim Superintendent Carey Wright, whose contract expires June 30, has said she will apply for the position.
The “Improving Student Achievement Agenda” for 2024 announced Wednesday by the Biden-Harris Administration mirrors and supports Gov. Moore’s agenda of commitment to every student. The U.S. Department of Education agenda addresses absenteeism, access to intensive tutoring, and after-school and summer learning opportunities. Moore joined U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and other leaders for the announcement, celebrating that “we have education champions in the president and the vice president,” Moore said. In Maryland, $28 million in federal funding supports Maryland’s Tutoring Corps to help 80,000 students. “This can be the model…for the rest of the country,” Moore said.
Maryland’s sports betting in December broke a record since it started in December 2021. Players spent $559.8 million combined at retail and mobile outlets. That generated $6.5 million for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund, which supports public education programs. The fund receives 15% of the taxable win.