And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future was officially introduced this morning (HB 1300/SB 1000). The General Assembly will begin work almost immediately with bill hearings and subcommittee work sessions. The 199-page bill reflects the final recommendations from the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (Kirwan Commission).
MSEA President Cheryl Bost issued the following statement in support of the bill drop: “This is it: our once-in-a-generation chance to fundamentally improve our public schools and make sure that every student in every neighborhood has the opportunities, support, and attention that they deserve. The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future will expand career and technical education, hire more educators and increase their pay, provide additional support to struggling learners, and create lasting educational equity and a more prosperous future for Maryland. Our kids can’t wait for the adequate and equitable school funding that they deserve — we must pass a new funding formula during the 2020 legislative session. Educators look forward to working with legislators to pass an equitable and sustainable formula that works for all students.”
Alvin Thornton, chairman of the 2002 Commission on Education Finance Equity and Excellence that developed the Thornton Bridge to Excellence Act, published a resounding endorsement for the Blueprint in an opinion piece earlier this week in the Baltimore Sun. He reminded us that his plan was delivering on its promise to improve schools until funding was withdrawn and that the resource commitments must be maintained if the achievement goals are to be realized.
Governor Larry Hogan’s State of the State address on Wednesday included rhetorical support for many of the policy recommendations in the Blueprint, though he didn’t reference the bill by name. The governor referenced a need for nearly every feature of the Kirwan Commission’s work: higher teacher salaries, expanded pre-K, expanded career and technical education, increased staffing levels, and equity in education. He fell short of a commitment to support or lead on the bill and instead raised the specter of a disagreement about revenue availability to pay for the proposal.
In the Democratic response, State Senator Melony Griffith (D, District-25, Prince George’s) also supported the Blueprint and said the state should commit to making sure every child has equal access to the best education, including certificated programs to ensure the state has a well-trained workforce ready for the jobs of today and the future.
Later today, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to consider amendments and vote to move HB 1, the Built to Learn Act, to the floor of the House of Delegates for debate next week. This legislation is a priority issue in MSEA’s legislative program this year and will free up billions of dollars in school construction bonds over the next five years that will allow the state and local school districts to make significant improvements in the new construction and renovation needs throughout the state.
On Tuesday, MSEA lobbyists testified against Gov. Hogan’s CLASS Act, a bill that purportedly helps low-performing schools in the state, but is nothing more than new confusing bureaucracy that is redundant given the accountability plans built into existing law through the Protect Our Schools Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act and new ones in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. Coverage of the hearing is found in Maryland Matters.
The General Assembly had two more swearing-in ceremonies this week as Gov. Hogan made official the appointment of Shelly Hettleman (D, District-11, Baltimore County) to the State Senate, replacing former Senator Bobby Zirkin and progressive activist and member of the Baltimore County Central Committee Sheila Ruth to a seat in the House of Delegates that was vacant after the ascension of Sen. Charles Sydnor (D, District-44, Baltimore City and County) from the House to the Senate earlier this year. With the appointments of Hettleman and Ruth, the General Assembly has nine members who were appointed to their seats since the end of the 2019 legislative session. And there will be a 10th, because before the end of the legislative session the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee and Gov. Hogan will once again coordinate on the appointment to fill Hettleman’s House seat.
This spate of appointments is bringing renewed attention to a measure providing for special elections to fill legislative vacancies during the first two years of a four-year legislative term. Under the bipartisan bill, vacancies in the second half of a legislative term would be filled using the current Central Committee appointment process. MSEA has not taken a position on this special election proposal but will continue to monitor to determine its impact on future vacancies and coordination with Republican and Democratic Central Committees.
A special primary on Tuesday decided the major party candidates who will run in a special election in April to fill the 7th District seat of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings. Democrat Kweisi Mfume and Republican Kimberly Klacik won their respective party’s nomination. The district, which has a 4–1 Democratic registration advantage, will have a special general election on April 28. There will be a regular primary election for the seat on that same day, creating a scenario where a candidate who lost on Tuesday could still run and win the party nomination for the November general election.
With Comptroller Peter Franchot announcing earlier this year that he plans to run for governor in 2022, the open seat he would leave behind is getting extra attention. Bethesda Magazine profiled a few candidates with ties to Montgomery County who are rumored for the job, including Senator Brian Feldman (D, District 15, Montgomery), Delegates Kumar Barve (D, District 17, Montgomery) and Brooke Lierman (D, District 46, Baltimore City), and County Council Vice President Tom Hucker. Senator Jim Rosapepe (D, District 21, Prince George’s/Anne Arundel) is also said to be planning a run if Franchot abandons the position he has held since 2007.
It’s been nearly 20 years since Maryland last updated how we fund our schools. In recent years, funding has become woefully inadequate and inequitable — and it shows:
· Half of educators are working second jobs to make ends meet.
· Every school in the state is annually underfunded by, on average, $2 million.
· Maryland spends 5% less on schools serving students in poverty.
Our kids can’t wait any longer for the funding and support that they deserve! Click here to email your legislators and urge them to pass a new funding formula that will be a game-changer for our students and schools.