Kirwan Blueprint Bill Nears Finish Line

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

Photo © Stephen Cherry


Kirwan Blueprint Bill Nears Finish Line

The Kirwan Blueprint bill (SB 1030) raced through both chambers of the General Assembly this week and is now inches away from final passage. The Senate took up the legislation first and passed the bill 43–1 with several amendments. The House then worked that version through two committees, added some amendments of their own, and passed the bill 114–20 last night. The Senate must now take final action on the House amendments and either concur or require a conference committee. Either way, we expect final passage on Monday and then the bill will go to the governor for his final action.

There have been several substantial changes made to the bill over the course of the week. The current version that passed the House with strong bipartisan support:

· Includes funding requirements totaling $1.1 billion over the next three school years — $255 million for 2019–2020, $355 million for 2020–2021, and $500 million in 2021–2022;

· Will result in an average raise of 4.5% for all certificated educators who are not administrators (the bill previously excluded psychologists, social workers, and curriculum specialists); and

· Creates a position of Inspector General of Education — selected by a unanimous vote between the governor, treasurer, and attorney general — to investigate fraud, waste, and abuse of public funding in school systems.

While the funding implementation timeline is slower than proposed by the Kirwan Commission and originally drafted in the bill, this is still a huge first step towards making the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future a reality.

Not only does it set us up for a long-term answer to underfunding, but it will make a large immediate impact. Teachers and other educators will see their largest raise since the 2008 recession. Our schools will be able to hire more special educators and paraprofessionals to help struggling learners and students with disabilities. More than 200 high-poverty schools will become “community schools” where wrap-around services such as counseling and healthcare will break down economic barriers to learning.

General Assembly Passes Bill Putting Teacher on State Board of Education

Reversing state law that prohibited current public school teachers from serving on the state board, the General Assembly gave final passage to legislation (HB 87) — 45–0 in the Senate and 98–37 in the House — that adds an active teacher and parent to the State Board of Education. The current state board has two former Maryland public school teachers, but they served many decades ago and the board is dominated by those experienced in private schools or outside of education altogether.

Under the passed bill, the teacher representative will be elected by all certified teachers in the state. The parent, who must have a child currently in a Maryland public school, will be nominated by the PTA and appointed by the governor.

The bipartisan bill now goes to the governor. Last year, Gov. Hogan vetoed similar legislation that would have added two teachers and a parent to the state school board.

Build to Learn Act Stalled in Senate

The Senate continues to hold a House-passed bill (HB 727) sponsored by Majority Leader Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery-District 15) — called the Build to Learn Act — that would issue an additional $2.2 billion in revenue bonds in the coming years to narrow a $4 billion school facilities backlog.

House leaders and county executives have been pushing hard for the bill and are still hopeful that the Senate could take action before Monday night’s Sine Die deadline. Under the bill, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County would receive $400 million; Anne Arundel County would receive $251 million; Howard County would receive $99 million; Frederick County would receive $75 million; and all other counties would receive a combined $174 million.


Restorative Approaches Bill Approaches Final Passage

Legislation that requires school districts to use “restorative approaches” in their student discipline practices will be considered for final passage in the Senate on Monday. The bill (HB 725), sponsored by Del. Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery-District 20) and Sen. Will Smith (D-Montgomery-District 20), passed the House 134–3 in mid-March. The House and Senate will need to work out small differences, either with the House concurring or through a conference committee, by midnight on Monday.

According to the Department of Legislative Services, the bill defines “restorative approaches” as a relationship-focused student discipline model that (1) is primarily proactive and preventative; (2) emphasizes building strong relationships and setting clear behavioral expectations that contribute to the school community’s well-being; (3) in response to behavior that violates clear behavioral expectations, focuses on accountability for any harm done by the problem behavior; and (4) addresses ways to repair the relationships affected by the problem behavior with the voluntary participation of an individual who was harmed.

General Assembly Passes Dream Act Expansion

The House and Senate have passed MSEA-backed legislation (HB 252/SB 537) to expand the Dream Act that helps undocumented immigrants attend Maryland colleges and universities and qualify for in-state tuition. The bill removes barriers that were included in the 2012 law, including a requirement that undocumented students attend community college before reaching a four-year college program. The legislation, sponsored by House Education Subcommittee Chair Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery-District 14) and Sen. Clarence Lam (D-Baltimore and Howard-District 12), passed the House 92–38 and the Senate 32–15.

Legal Age for Tobacco Purchases Raised to 21

Legislation to raise the age for legal tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 — which was included in the Democratic leadership agenda at the start of session — cleared both chambers (passed the House 101–35 and Senate 32–13) this week and now goes to the governor. Sponsored by House Economic Matters Chair Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s-District 25) and Senate Finance Committee Chair Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore-District 10), the bill (HB 1169) will go into effect on October 1 of this year and will exempt members of the military ages 18–20.

Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh Takes Leave of Absence Amid Scandal

After weeks of fallout from the self-dealing scandal gripping the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and their board members, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh announced that she will be taking a leave of absence while a state prosecutor investigates possible wrongdoing related to her Healthy Holly books.

During her absence, Council President Jack Young will serve as ex-officio mayor and has pledged to serve as a caretaker for the city while Mayor Pugh recovers from pneumonia and cooperates with the investigation. He told reporters this week that he has no plans to seek the full-time job in the 2020 mayoral election, leaving a wide-open field of possible candidates assuming the mayor will not run for re-election following the scandal. Several members of the city council have called on her to resign.