Key Education Bills Heard as Session Passes Halfway Mark

And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street

Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard), MSEA lobbyist Christian Gobel, and MSEA President Cheryl Bost testified in support of House Bill 1175, for responsible contracting that protects public school jobs.


Responsible Contracting Bill to Keep Public School Jobs Public Has Unions’ Support

MSEA, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2250, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500 were among the witnesses that provided testimony on Wednesday to the House Ways and Means Committee for House Bill 1175, to put guardrails around subcontracting in public schools and make such contracts more transparent and with stronger oversight and employee protections (see previous Up the Street coverage). Bus driver and AFSCME Local 2250 President Martin Diggs described subcontracts that create unequal working conditions in disregard of negotiated agreements. MSEA Treasurer Colleen Morris described times when subcontractors’ lack of familiarity with the education policy, students, and schools where they were temporarily assigned created unsafe consequences and additional staff workloads. MSEA President Cheryl Bost and lobbyist Christian Gobel emphasized the need to keep for-profit contractors from filling public school jobs and to make sure any contracts are transparent. HB1175, sponsored by Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard), is the crossfile of Senate Bill 1043, sponsored by Sen. Dawn Gile (D-Anne Arundel). The Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee will hear SB1043 on Wednesday.

Expanded Educator Licensure Pathways Has Broad Support from State Boards

Also on Wednesday, MSEA testified for House Bill 945, legislation to expand the career pathways available to aspiring educators while keeping standards high. The bill, sponsored by Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore County), is one way to address the acute educator shortage affecting Maryland. The current entry paths rely heavily on Praxis tests, which have been found to be biased against Black and Brown test takers and lack the ability to predict who will be a good educator. Ebersole told the committee that if the state wants to boost hiring and keep high standards the profession needs to have more pathways. The Maryland Association of Boards of Education testified in support of HB94, and the Maryland State Department of Education and the State Board of Education testified in support with amendments. MSEA is working with all parties to come to agreement on this important initiative to support high quality aspiring educators. The crossfile is Senate Bill 771, sponsored by Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City and County), and it was heard in the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee on February 23.

Grow Your Own Bill to Be Heard in Senate, Invests in Support Professionals Becoming Teachers

Senate Bill 937, MSEA’s bill to establish a grow your own educator program to support education support professionals (ESPs) who want to become certified teachers, will be heard on Wednesday in the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee. Grow your own is a proven means to increase the teacher workforce, diversity, and teacher retention. Sponsored by Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s), SB937 is crossfiled as House Bill 1157, sponsored by Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery). This legislation would revive part of Gov. Moore’s 2023 Maryland Educator Shortage Reduction Act that was amended before passage last year. This legislation would sustainably fund a program that has been working in Maryland, using pandemic-era federal funding that is expiring.

Senate EEE Committee Hears Bill to Make Blueprint Pay Benefits More Uniform

Another initiative to hire and retain high quality educators is Senate Bill 545, which was heard on Wednesday in the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee. SB545 would expand the career supports in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future that are designed to help with the recruitment and retention of highly qualified educators. SB545 is sponsored by Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel), crossfiled as House Bill 789, sponsored by Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard). The legislation expands the job positions that qualify for salary increases associated with earning a National Board certification and other advanced credentials (see previous Up the Street coverage).

MSEA Supports Governor’s ENOUGH Act to Fight Childhood Poverty

MSEA President Cheryl Bost joined Gov. Moore on Wednesday in the House Appropriations Committee to support his childhood poverty fighting legislation, the ENOUGH Act, Senate Bill 482/House Bill 694. The legislation provides $15 million in grants starting in fiscal year 2025 for communities that deploy multiple strategies to stop the cycles of poverty that have constrained generations of Marylanders. 

“We’re proud to stand in support of the ENOUGH Act and the Moore-Miller Administration’s continued focus on eradicating child poverty,” Bost told the committee. “As educators, we know that poverty, particularly concentrated poverty, brings with it all types of challenges, traumas, and obstacles to success in the classroom…These students and their families need more supports than we can provide them in school.” The governor’s proposal to provide more resources and to address the cycle of generational poverty that burdens children, families, and communities has MSEA’s full support.

SB482 was heard Friday in the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee.


State Board Will Replace Potentially Biased Kindergarten Readiness Assessment

The Maryland State Board of Education (MSDE) on Tuesday announced it would as soon as possible replace the kindergarten readiness assessment (KRA). An independent evaluation of the current KRA found it is potentially biased against bilingual or multilingual learners.

“Having an unbiased KRA assessment is an extremely important measure,” said Dr. Carey Wright, Interim State Superintendent of Schools. “It is part of the MSDE strategic plan, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, and Gov. Wes Moore’s newly released strategic plan. MSDE is committed to implementing a KRA assessment without biases as soon as possible.”  

The KRA measures language and literacy, mathematics, social foundations, physical well-being, and motor development to determine school readiness of incoming kindergarteners. The assessment is administered to incoming kindergarteners during the first few months of school. 


Trone Gains Endorsement from Laborers’ International Union Affiliates

Three affiliates of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) have endorsed U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) in the Democratic primary race to fill the seat from which Sen. Ben Cardin (D) is retiring. A complete list of Trone’s endorsements is on his campaign website.

Trone Defends Reproductive Rights in Contrast to Hogan, Alabama Court Decision

Following the February 16 Alabama Supreme Court ruling declaring that embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) should be considered children, Maryland Senate candidate U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) reiterated his commitment to protect and expand IVF access.

“The latest ruling out of the Alabama Supreme Court is an assault on our freedoms that puts our collective future in jeopardy. It is infuriating that Larry Hogan, who refused to sign legislation that would expand IVF benefits to LGBTQI+ families, is ready to hand Mitch McConnell the keys to the Senate and make it harder for everyone to start a family when and how they choose…I’ve spent the past three terms in Congress making it easier to raise a family in Maryland, and in the Senate I will champion legislation to make IVF more affordable and accessible to everyone.”