And other legislative updates in this month’s Up the Street
Some hard-won legislative achievements that MSEA fought for on behalf of students and educators passed this year and await action by Gov. Hogan.
House Bill 850, sponsored by Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery), prohibits all schools that receive public money from discriminating based on race, ethnicity, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The urgency to assure such protection could not be greater.
Likewise, Hogan has not signed off on Senate Bill 831, sponsored by Senator Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery) and House Bill 1349, sponsored by Delegate Shaneka Henson (D-Anne Arundel), legislation to recognize the work of ESPs with well-earned bonuses. MSEA sees this legislation as the next step, but far from the last step, in improving salaries for ESP. MSEA made this legislation a priority to address the crisis in ESP recruitment and retention. ESPs are essential to the daily functioning of our schools, whether they are driving buses, preparing and serving meals, assisting in the classroom, maintaining buildings and technology, keeping records and implementing protocols, or any of the many other critical roles they fill.
The final version of the bill, which passed with bipartisan support, will give ESPs a $500 bonus in FY24, as was originally intended for both FY23 and FY24. The FY23 bonuses became restricted by the approved budget, which included just over $8 million for ESP bonuses. That is likely to cut the FY23 bonus to half of what MSEA and the bill were originally seeking. Nevertheless, the bill lays the groundwork to improve ESP wages, and MSEA will keep up the fight for long-term ESP wage improvements at the local level through the collective bargaining process.
Also waiting on Hogan is legislation to develop specific guardrails to support equity and higher quality virtual education if and when virtual instruction is delivered. MSEA testified in support of guardrails around virtual education that passed in House Bill 1163, sponsored by Delegate Alonzo Washington (D-Prince George’s), and in Senate Bill 362, sponsored by Senator Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s).
The virtual education legislation requires the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to provide local school systems with guidance related to the professional development and support for teachers to execute virtual education best practices, and to establish guidelines for virtual learning. This is just the beginning of the work to assure that students receive the education they are due when virtual options are employed. Should the law be enacted, MSEA will track the implementation to determine if further refinements need to be made in the future.
The governor has until May 28 to sign, veto, or allow these measures to take effect without his signature. He has scheduled bill signings for May 12 and 16, but the bills to be signed have not been identified.
The final FY23 $61 billion general fund budget that will take effect July 1 includes the legislature’s addition of $800 million for out-year funding for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund. The one-time bump was made possible by an estimated $7.5 billion general fund surplus across FY22 and FY23. The $800 million will make a significant contribution to sustain the landmark Blueprint plan and ensure that more students in every corner of the state benefit from the expanded programs and staffing levels it legislates.
Moreover, a fresh economic analysis by the Sage Policy Group finds that the Blueprint will cost the state and local governments less in the long run and bring a return on investment sooner than originally estimated in 2019. This year Strong Schools Maryland again commissioned a study by Sage, which published a fiscal analysis of the Blueprint in 2019. The new takeaways are that despite the pandemic upheaval and Hogan’s delay in funding, the Blueprint will cost $16.5 billion less to implement between now and 2032, and students who benefit from the educational improvements will start contributing to the state’s tax base sooner and more robustly, bringing the fiscal break-even point up three years to 2038, compared to the original estimate of 2041. The Sage Group analysis is here.
On Thursday, MSEA President Cheryl Bost and State School Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury cofacilitated a roundtable hosted by the Maryland State Board of Education (SBOE) and MSDE concerning early career and rising educators.
“As we’re facing challenging staffing shortages, we need to be thoughtful and deliberate about listening to educators and providing them with the resources, support, and opportunities to make sure that we continue to attract and keep diverse, outstanding educators in our profession and in our classrooms,” Bost said in advance of the event.
The conversation focused on teacher preparation programs and ideas for better supporting the recruitment and retention of early career educators. The crisis in recruitment and retention was highlighted on April 25 by Bost at the Blueprint’s Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) meeting as well.
High-level U.S. and state elected officials, and labor and environmental organizations have recently endorsed statewide candidates. In the governor’s race, endorsements for Democrat Wes Moore include U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Budget and Taxation Committee Chair Guy Guzzone (D-Howard), House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee Chair C.T. Wilson (D-Charles), 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, Delegate Roxane Prettyman (D-Baltimore City), and Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s).
In the attorney general’s race, Delegate Wanika Fisher (D-Prince George’s), Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery), Baltimore County Council Chairman Julian Jones, and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen endorsed Democrat Anthony Brown; and in the comptroller’s race, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, former Gov. Parris Glendening, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500, and Environment America’s Maryland Affiliate endorsed Delegate Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City).
The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled against Republican challengers and upheld the state legislative district map that the General Assembly adopted in January. The court did not accept Republicans’ contention that the map violates the Maryland Constitution’s requirement that legislative districts be compact and respect natural and political boundaries. The primary election will be held on July 19, with early voting running July 7-14.
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