And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
Protect public education with hundreds of educators on March 13 at MSEA’s march and lobby night! We have one simple message for legislators: Protect Our Schools. Sign up and share this link to join us: http://bit.ly/RSVPMarchforMDschools
In a show of force, Speaker Mike Busch led a press conference with MSEA President Betty Weller to propose a five-part “Protect Our Schools” plan to protect Maryland public schools from privatization efforts by President Donald Trump, his Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and Gov. Larry Hogan. The plan includes a combination of legislative and budgetary actions to achieve this session:
1. Pass the Protect Our School Act (HB978/SB871): This legislation would set safeguards to prevent over-testing and school privatization in the implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
2. Stop Gov. Hogan’s Charter School Fraud Bill (HB877/SB704): This is Gov. Hogan’s most radical school privatization proposal yet. It creates an independent authorizing board for charter schools and establishes a separate unaccountable school system for charters to receive greater taxpayer funding than neighborhood public schools with little to no oversight.
3. Oppose Gov. Hogan’s Proposal to Double Taxpayer Funding for Private Schools: Gov. Hogan’s budget includes $7 million for BOOST vouchers this year, expanding the funding of the program despite the fact that it was used mostly to subsidize private school operators at the expense of public school students.
4. Work to Reverse Cuts to Education in Gov. Hogan’s Budget: We will fight to restore funding for after-school, summer, and college preparation programs for low-income students, as well as efforts to improve and elevate the teaching workforce in Maryland public schools.
5. Pass the Less Testing, More Learning Act (HB461/SB452): This bill limits federal, state, and district mandated testing to 2% of the school year — 21.6 hours for elementary and middle schools, and 23.4 hours for high schools — reserving 98% of the year for instruction and learning.
The most unqualified Secretary of Education our country has ever seen, Betsy DeVos was sworn in on Tuesday evening. After the Senate voted 50–50, Vice President Mike Pence needed to come to the chamber to cast the tie-breaking vote. Billionaire DeVos has no prior experience working in public education. Instead, she has spent decades advocating for private school voucher programs and the privatization of neighborhood public schools while trying to expand unregulated charter schools.
If you are worried about what might happen to public schools now that DeVos is education secretary, you’re not alone. But don’t just sit there and stew. It’s more important than ever to join together, stand up, and defend our public schools and students. Here are five things you can do to take action today!
MSEA has long been a member of the Working Matters Coalition to pass earned sick leave legislation. After successfully passing the bill through the House of Delegates, and just coming up short on the last day of session in the State Senate last year, proponents believe now is our time. The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (HB1/SB230), was heard in committee this week. The Senate Finance Committee went first, on Thursday; and the House Economic Matters Committee hears the bill today. Over 100 witnesses were signed up for and against the bill; and for and against a much weaker sick leave proposal from Gov. Hogan (HB382/SB305).
Howard County Education Association member Mary Stein is a school nurse who testified in support of the strong earned sick leave legislation in both committees. Her testimony noted that the issue is a legislative priority for MSEA because sick and safe leave for employees helps build stronger families, healthier communities, workplaces with happier and more productive employees, and students who are ready to learn. We will continue to work with the coalition and the legislature to hopefully win on this issue this year.
The Board of Public Works unanimously selected Robert Gorrell as the new head of the Interagency Commission on School Construction (IAC). The IAC oversees the state’s distribution of school construction money, which is about $300 million each year. Gorrell comes to Maryland after leading the school construction efforts in New Mexico. He replaces Dr. David Lever, who resigned his position in 2016 after a dispute with Gov. Hogan and the Board of Public Works for how that Board politicized the school construction process.
Governor Hogan has banned 450 people from posting on his official Facebook page over the last two years. Maryland residents who have called Hogan out for his silence in the face of Donald Trump’s extreme agenda, or have criticized some of his policy decisions have been blocked. The Washington Post reported on this story and found a few of the Marylanders who are no longer able to engage with the governor on his Facebook page, including an Anne Arundel County teacher. When dissenting opinions cannot be voiced, they surely cannot be heard. Perhaps social media is not the best way to reach Gov. Hogan. Instead, try calling him at 410–974–3901.
This week, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz wrote an OpEd in The Baltimore Sun detailing the education cuts and privatization agenda that Gov. Hogan has pursued in his first three years in office. From funding cuts, to withholding funding, to shifting dollars from public school programs in order to create and grow voucher programs, Hogan has repeatedly attacked public education in Maryland.
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.