March for Our Schools: Our Kids Can’t Wait!

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

Photo © Stephen Cherry


March for Our Schools Draws 8,500 Educators

Monday night’s March for Our Schools will be remembered long after the red cowbells stopped clanging. Maryland had its “Red for Ed” moment, bringing 8,500+ educators, parents, students, and public education advocates to Annapolis to protest underfunded schools. The message — to address the underfunding with $1 billion over the next two years and a new funding formula long into the future — was broadcast onto television screens and printed in newspapers all over the state, with the event even drawing four news helicopters to capture the huge crowd overhead. It was officially the largest rally in Annapolis since 2011.

Here are a few of our favorite news clips from the event from NBC Washington, Education Week, Capital Gazette, WMDT, and Bethesda Magazine.

It’s definitely worth searching for #MarchForOurSchools on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see everyone’s photos and relive a powerful night for education advocates.

There’s a ton of thanks to go around: to local association leaders and building representatives who held building visits, phone-banked, and signed up educators to attend; to MSEA staff for coordinating perhaps the most organized mass rally Annapolis has ever seen; to our coalition partners who got the word out to parents, students, and community members; to elected officials who attended and marched with our educators; and to all our speakers, whose words reverberated between buildings in downtown Annapolis and helped make the case for a new investment in our schools. Our kids can’t wait!

Photo © Stephen Cherry

House Passes Budget, Senate Moves Forward Their Version

On Wednesday, the Maryland House of Delegates passed their $46.7 billion budget, including $320 million for Kirwan Commission recommendations and $500 million for school construction. To put that in perspective, state aid for public preK-12 education would increase by more than 8%, driven by new investments in teacher salaries, pre-kindergarten, special education, community schools, and other priorities. That funding for Kirwan Commission recommendations corresponds with the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation (HB 1413/SB 1030), which received a hearing in the House on Wednesday.

The budget would also phase out the state’s BOOST private school voucher program by limiting vouchers to those who have already received them or their siblings. Funding reduces to $5.5 million in their revised budget (Gov. Hogan submitted it with $10 million for the program).

Meanwhile, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee finished work on their version of the budget, which will be on the Senate floor next week. The Committee allocated $225 million for Kirwan Commission recommendations, cutting nearly $100 million in special education funding from the proposed Blueprint for Maryland’s Future bill. Their budget will also include all $10 million requested by Gov. Hogan for private school vouchers and $55 million less than the House’s version of the budget for school construction.

MSEA has a strong preference for the bold actions in the House’s version of the budget. Ultimately, we are committed to working with both chambers and the budget conferees to craft a final budget framework that makes critical new investments in our schools and allows the Kirwan Commission recommendations of a revised funding formula to stay on track for adoption and implementation next year.

Maryland Senate Passes Minimum Wage Bill, Conference Committee Likely Next

Yesterday, the Maryland Senate passed their version of the $15 minimum wage bill with a 32–15 veto-proof supermajority. Like the version passed through the House, the legislation would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by July 2025. But the Senate version creates a longer timeline, out to 2028, for businesses with fewer than 15 employees. Education support professionals who will be helped by this bill are employees of school districts that have far more than 15 employees and therefore would not subject to the longer implementation timeline should that Senate provision make it into the final bill.

According to The Baltimore Sun, “The versions of the bill also differ in how much additional state funding they require in future state budgets for health and human services organizations — such as those that serve people with disabilities and offer addiction treatment — to pay their workers.”

The Senate and House are now expected to meet in conference committee to work out differences between their bills and then pass a new version through both chambers so it can go to Gov. Hogan’s desk. The governor has proposed a watered-down option of raising the wage to $12.10 by 2022, suggesting he might veto a $15 minimum wage bill. But he would do so knowing his veto is almost certain to be overridden, since the House and Senate have already passed $15 minimum wage bills with veto-proof supermajorities.


House Passes School Calendar Flexibility Bill

Making the legislation an emergency bill so that it takes immediate effect and outlining the language that would appear on the ballot if the issue is petitioned in 2020, the House of Delegates amended and passed SB 128, the Community Control of School Calendars Act. MSEA supports this legislation that will allow local boards of education and the local calendar committee process to determine when schools should start and end each year.

The Senate will debate the House amendments and hopefully concur with them on Monday. If they do concur, the measure will move to Governor Hogan’s desk for his action. The governor is unlikely to sign the bill into law, but it could become law without his signature. He could also choose to veto the legislation, setting up a potential override vote before the end of the session. Even if the bill is enacted, Gov. Hogan may choose to collect signatures and petition the issue to voters on the general election ballot in November 2020.

Former Governor Harry Hughes Passes Away at 92

Maryland’s 57th governor, Harry Hughes, passed away at age 92 this week. Hughes was a two-term governor, serving as the state’s chief executive from 1979–1987. Admirers remember Hughes most for his environmental advocacy and his work to help clean and protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Sports Betting Legalization Pushed to 2020

Leaders in the State Senate pulled the plug on legislation to advance sports betting in Maryland this year. Instead, Senate Budget and Tax Committee Chair Nancy King (D-Montgomery-District 39) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles & Prince George’s-District 27) expect the conversation to take place next year. Maryland’s constitution requires an expansion of gaming to be approved by voters in a statewide ballot question, which couldn’t happen sooner than November 2020. Revenue estimates are hard to nail down without the specifics of where or how sports betting would be implemented; but if gaming is expanded, we would certainly push to have revenues benefit the Education Trust Fund.