And other legislative updates in this month’s Up the Street
MSEA members played a pivotal role in the history that was made on Election Day when Marylanders elected Wes Moore and Aruna Miller to be governor and lieutenant governor, Brooke Lierman to be comptroller, and Anthony Brown to be attorney general. MSEA looks forward to working collaboratively with these key state leaders to support education, empower educators to help shape public education policy, and to advance racial-social justice.
MSEA made key early endorsements of Moore, Miller, Lierman, and Brown on April 2 at the union’s Spring Representative Assembly that has been cited by Maryland Matters as critical to the Moore campaign’s success. MSEA’s inclusive and thorough recommendation process brought together hundreds of educators from across the state who were elected by their colleagues to vote on the endorsements. MSEA then reinforced those endorsements with thousands of volunteers across the state knocking on doors, making calls, and handing out nearly 400,000 Apple Ballots at the polls.
“It’s a historic day for Maryland, our students, and our schools,” said MSEA President Cheryl Bost in an election night statement. “We’re thrilled that Wes Moore, Aruna Miller, Brooke Lierman, and Anthony Brown are projected to win their races and lead the fight to ensure that no one is left behind and everyone has an equal shot at success. By soundly defeating candidates who would have focused on politicizing our schools and attacking the work of dedicated educators, this is a huge victory for our efforts to ensure that every student in every neighborhood has the resources and opportunities to pursue their dreams.”
Educator-recommended candidates didn’t just do well at the top of the ticket; there were many down-ballot victories to celebrate as well. Educator-recommended candidates won in 92% of House of Delegates races called at press time and in 90% of Senate races. These win rates will likely continue to increase as more races are called. Educator-backed county executives had a strong night, including convincing wins by Calvin Ball and Johnny Olszewski. Mail in votes are trending towards Steuart Pittman, who appears to have a strong chance at coming out victorious once all of the votes are counted. The Frederick County executive race looks headed for a photo finish. Mail in votes also appear very likely to put NEA- and MSEA-recommended Congressman David Trone (D-6th) over the top in his re-election bid against far-right challenger Neil Parrott.
This year, extremist groups attempted to divide communities by targeting and politicizing board of education races in particular. Educators’ work helped defeat extremists running in many races across the state, setting the stage for focused conversations on what our students need rather than being diverted by national politics and divisiveness. In some races, however, more extreme candidates won or may win when all the ballots are counted—threatening to divert local education conversations from what matters to local schools to national and extreme political agendas. No matter the outcome, MSEA members will fight for contracts, policies, and legislation to protect and defend marginalized students and educators, the resources students need to pursue their dreams, and an accurate and honest curriculum.
The Moore-Miller transition team has appointed MSEA President Cheryl Bost to the 26-member transition steering committee that will help develop policy recommendations across the state. Along with a handful of other leaders from a variety of sectors and backgrounds, Bost will have a unique opportunity to give educators a voice from the start of the Moore Administration.
Announcing their transition team, Moore and Miller reiterated their commitment to establishing an administration that operates transparently and represents and listens to all Marylanders, no matter their geographic, racial, or social background. Reiterating a campaign mantra, Miller said, “Those closest to the challenge are closest to the solution.”
On Thursday, Bost advised the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB), as it finalizes its comprehensive Blueprint implementation plan, that the voices and expertise of educators are essential to implement the Blueprint as it was passed. The AIB is finalizing its draft implementation plan, which is scheduled to be submitted to the governor by December 1. Bost detailed the AIB plan’s failure to include educators in a kindergarten readiness assessment redesign, the addition of English language learner support without designated funding, and omitting union representation in several areas where the Blueprint law intended labor to have a voice. Imprecisely implementing the Blueprint runs the risk of losing key voices and missing essential goals that MSEA fought for in the legislation.
Bost concurred with the AIB’s proposal to adjust deadlines to help implement the Blueprint optimally. The AIB is considering extending the March 2023 deadline for localities to finish their own implementation plan drafts, suggesting they could complete their plans in three phases, with the first due in March. If the change is allowed, district officials would first submit plans for college and career readiness paths for students in grades 11 and 12; for requirements for certified school personnel who have regular and direct contact with students to complete annual training on student behavioral health; and for encouraging and supporting teachers, especially those from historically underrepresented populations, to obtain and maintain National Board certification. Districts would have until March 2024 to implement other programs, such as a new system of professional development that helps teachers advance in their careers. MSEA intends to have a strong voice in plans for those programs with a direct impact on students, educators’ careers, and local bargaining rights.
Maryland Lottery and Gaming reported a single-month revenue record of $213 million from the state’s six casinos in October. The state received $80 million, of which $58 million went to the Education Trust Fund (ETF). The most recent sports wagering revenue report from the state’s seven licensed facilities totaled nearly $31 million in September, with $984,000 going to the Blueprint Future Fund.
Applications barely had a chance to open for student loan forgiveness before a coalition of Republican governors sued the Biden Administration over the debt relief plan. Applications have continued to be open, but a Texas federal court ruling this week threatens to close them. While the lawsuit progresses, a court order prevents the administration from processing applications, but the website encourages those eligible to apply. The plan is open to individuals who made less than $125,000, and families who made less than $250,000, in 2020 or 2021. Pell grant recipients are eligible for up to $20,000 in debt cancellation, and recipients from other borrowers, excluding Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), are eligible for up to $10,000 in debt cancellation. Information about the loan forgiveness program is at studentaid.gov. The pause in payments on federal student loans that has been allowed since 2020 has been extended through December 31.
The U.S. Department of Education notified states it is distributing a supplemental $50 million through the Safer Communities Act to fund the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program to address chronic absenteeism. The money is to be used to add or improve extracurricular, after-school, and summer programming for middle and high school students.