It’s Time to Protect Our Schools

And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street.

Photo by Martin Falbisoner (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


MSEA Begins Advocacy on “Protect Our Schools” 2017 Educators’ Agenda

With the 2017 Maryland General Assembly now under way, MSEA President Betty Weller and the government relations staff are moving quickly to line up bill sponsors, draft legislation, and work in pursuit of a comprehensive educators’ agenda of Protect Our Schools:

· Ensure full funding for K-12 education as required by law for FY2018 and future years

· Expand opportunity and prevent privatization in Maryland’s implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act

· Eliminate Gov. Hogan’s BOOST private school voucher program

· Limit all mandated standardized testing to 2% of instructional time

· Protect accountability measures, collective bargaining, and local control in Maryland’s charter school law

To see MSEA’s full legislative priorities for the 2017 General Assembly session, click here.

State Leaders Discuss Education at Annapolis Summit

On Wednesday morning, we got our first hint at education priorities from the three most important state leaders during the annual Annapolis Summit with WEAA’s Marc Steiner. During the governor’s interview, MSEA Vice President Cheryl Bost asked him if he planned to fully fund K-12 education in his budget this year. He responded by promising “record investments” in public schools for FY2018 — meaning he intends to follow that legal requirement of full funding — but declined to exempt public schools from his soon to be announced plan to curb future investments in public services. Gov. Hogan also restated a proposal to double funding for his private school vouchers program.

Later in the program, House Speaker Mike Busch (D-Anne Arundel-District 30A) talked about his daughters’ experiences as students with over-testing and stressed the need to reduce standardized testing if Maryland wants to get back to being ranked #1 for education again (last week, Education Week ranked Maryland #5; we were #1 from 2009–2013). Due to Speaker Busch’s leadership on this issue last year, the House of Delegates unanimously passed our legislation to limit testing to 2% of the school year (but the Senate declined to bring it up for a vote).

Kirwan Commission Discusses Ways to Elevate Educator Professions

On Monday, the Kirwan Commission held its last meeting before the end of the General Assembly session and dedicated its focus to recruiting and retaining a world-class educator workforce in Maryland. Commission members heard from the Learning Policy Institute’s Linda Darling-Hammond, who presented her findings that Maryland is one of the least attractive states for teachers due to its poor working conditions.

Darling-Hammond also focused on how American schools differ from the highest performing school systems in the world. As wrote, “Compared to teachers in countries with the best performing students, U.S. teachers are less well compensated, have less support to prepare for teaching, have less time for planning and collaboration, and overall have less autonomy in the classroom. American teachers also spend the most instructional hours in the classroom with larger average class size compared to dozens of the most developed countries.”

The Commission will now pause while the legislature is in session and reconvene in April to continue its work toward rewriting Maryland’s school funding formula.


U.S. Senate Committee Delays Hearing for Betsy DeVos

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) announced that it would delay its hearing for President-elect Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, billionaire school privatization advocate Betsy DeVos. According to several reports, DeVos’ vast wealth and network of campaign contributions has overwhelmed the Office of Government Ethics, who are working around the clock to vet her ethical credibility. DeVos’ contributions to the senators — 17 in total — who will vote on her confirmation have raised red flags since she was nominated. Politico wrote that she holds a “megadonor’s advantage” and has said in the past, in reference to her and her husband’s large contributions, that “we expect a return on our investment.”

Her hearing will now take place on Tuesday, January 17 at 5 p.m. and the HELP committee will vote on her confirmation on Tuesday, January 24. You can urge our senators to vote against Betsy DeVos’ confirmation here.

MSDE Continues ESSA Listening Tour

On Tuesday night, the Maryland State Department of Education held their second listening session on implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act — this time in Cambridge. The previous week, they spoke with roughly 70 community members in Hagerstown to get feedback on their first draft plan for implementing the new federal education law. There are three remaining listening sessions: January 17 in Baltimore City, January 19 in Springdale, and January 24 in Prince Frederick. To make sure educator voices are heard — and to avoid the mistakes made under No Child Let Behind — sign-up to attend one of the remaining sessions with MSEA by emailing Adam Mendelson at [email protected].

Legislative Black Caucus to Push Pre-K Suspension Ban, Baltimore City Control of Schools

A “reinvigorated” Legislative Black Caucus rolled out its 2017 legislative agenda on Wednesday, a five-point plan focused on achieving equality across a number of issues. On education, the group prioritized passing a ban on suspensions for students under seven years-old (consistent with a New Business Item passed in October at the MSEA Representative Assembly), as well as legislation that would exclude the governor from appointing city school board members.

Resignations Ring in the New Session

While the first day of the legislative session — packed with open house receptions and other celebrations — is usually a joyous affair, the talk of Annapolis focused squarely on two major resignations: Del. Michael Vaughn (D-Prince George’s-District 24) and Sen. Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City-District 41). Vaughn is widely rumored to be involved in the Prince George’s County liquor board corruption scandal that broke last week, while Gladden stepped down after missing half of last session due to health reasons.


Open Seat in Congressional District 1?

Lost behind headlines of the start of session, Congressman Andy Harris (R-District 1) met with President-elect Trump on Wednesday to discuss medical research, fueling speculation that he is in the running for director of the National Institutes of Health. If Harris did receive the post, that would create a hotly contested opening for the lone conservative-leaning congressional district in Maryland.

Rebuilding Starts Now

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.