And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
One of MSEA’s top legislative priorities — the Less Testing, More Learning Act (HB461/SB452) — cleared its first major hurdle this week when it was unanimously voted out of the House Ways and Means Committee, 19–0. The full House of Delegates moved it forward on a procedural vote this morning, allowing for full consideration by the House as early as Monday night. Similar legislation passed the House unanimously last year, but stalled in the Senate. This year, it has 31 Senate co-sponsors (24 votes are needed on the Senate floor to win on this issue).
The bill — sponsored by Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery-District 14) and Sen. Roger Manno (D-Montgomery-District 19) — would limit all federal, state, and district mandated testing to 2% of annual instruction time, or 21.6 hours in elementary and middle schools and 23.4 hours in high schools. Currently, 17 districts have at least one grade level above the 2% threshold.
You can read more about the Less Testing, More Learning Act in Bethesda Magazine.
With no current educators on the 12-member State Board of Education, Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore and Howard-District 12) and Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery-District 18) teamed up to introduce legislation (HB590/SB609) adding five new seats to the statewide education policy-making body: three dedicated to current Maryland teachers and two dedicated to parents of current Maryland students. The teacher members would be selected through a statewide election of their teacher peers. The Maryland PTA would select the two parents.
This week, MSEA Legislative Committee Chair and Frederick County teacher Gary Brennan joined Maryland PTA President Elizabeth Ysla Leight and the bill sponsors to support the legislation before the House Ways and Means and Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committees. Brennan said, in part, “Leading the profession is a guiding principle for MSEA. Adding three dedicated seats on the State Board for certified teachers is one of the best ways to empower educators to lead and address the lack of autonomy and input in policy decisions felt by teachers in the state.”
This week, New America’s Education Policy Director Kevin Carey wrote a comprehensive takedown of private school vouchers for The New York Times policy blog, The Upshot. Titled, “Dismal Results From Vouchers Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins,” the article goes into study after study from Louisiana, Ohio, and Indiana, showing that students who move from public to private schools underperform their public school peers.
MSEA cited all of this research and more this week in testifying against a new private school voucher program proposal (SB557) from Sen. Gail Bates (R-Carroll and Howard-District 9). The MSEA testimony read, “This legislation creates a new program to withhold funds from [low-performing] public schools instead of providing some of the interventions needed to improve the schools. The program would deny funding to make low performing schools better…to improve, these schools need additional state and local revenues, not less.”
MSEA also continues to work with a coalition of public education advocates to oppose the BOOST private school voucher program and advocate for its $7 million to be returned to public schools. The coalition plans to turn up the volume on messages to legislators next week during a legislative hearing on the governor’s budget — which cut $20 million from public schools to make room for the failed BOOST program.
While Gov. Hogan usually uses his time at Board of Public Works meetings to criticize school officials over their requests for adequate school construction funding, the tables were turned this week. Several Marylanders stood up and questioned Gov. Hogan’s silence on Trump administration policies to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ban immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, and deport certain Maryland immigrants. Gov. Hogan dismissed their comments and said in response to a question on the ACA that he has shown “tremendous leadership on this issue,” despite having not taken a stance on Congressional repeal plans.
Mimicking the ideology behind President Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, Gov. Hogan announced this week that he is appointing school privatization advocate Brendan Cooper, an activist for the Institute for Justice. His organization calls itself “the nation’s preeminent courtroom defender of school choice.”
Cooper will join other privatization advocates on the board, including the founder of the corporate reform-minded Fordham Institute, a research contributor to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, a charter school consultant, a private school principal, and an unsuccessful anti-union school board candidate. Out of Gov. Hogan’s ten appointments to the State Board of Education, just one has experience working in Maryland schools.
After ten straight years of placing first in AP performance, Maryland fell to second place in this year’s College Board rankings with 30.4% of high school seniors passing the college-level tests in 2016. Maryland’s AP performance dominance is one of several statistics that shows how the Thornton Bridge to Excellence Act in the early 2000s boosted achievement for Maryland students.
However, with the funding formula increasingly out of date and growing numbers of low-income students, Maryland’s drop in several state education rankings shows it’s time for a new investment in public schools. MSEA will continue to advocate for $2.9 billion in new funding — as recommended by national school funding experts — in the Kirwan Commission when the group reconvenes after the legislative session.
While no Democratic candidate has launched a 2018 gubernatorial campaign so far, the Maryland Democratic Party has started its effort to hold Gov. Hogan accountable for his silence on President Trump’s harmful policies. This week, they released a 65-second web video criticizing Gov. Hogan for being silent on Trump after he attacked then gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown for not standing up to the Obama administration. The video ends with, “Attacked Obama then, silent on Trump now.”
As Democrats begin to make 2018 a referendum on having the courage to stand up to President Trump, the president’s approval rating in Maryland stands at just 29%, according to a new Goucher Poll.
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.