Momentum Builds for Higher ESP Wages, Right to Bargain Class Size

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


Legislation in Motion to Raise Education Support Professionals’ Pay, Make Class Size Negotiable

On Thursday during a press conference hosted by MSEA, Senator Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery) and Delegate Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s) were joined by distinguished educators, MSEA President Cheryl Bost, and SEIU 500 President Pia Morrison to build momentum for legislation to raise wages for education support professionals (ESPs) and give educators a voice in class size. The legislation would address school conditions exacerbated by the pandemic that interfere with building the relationships between students and educators that are necessary in a safe, supportive learning environment.

Filling teaching and ESP positions was hard before the pandemic, and it has reached crisis levels, with staffing shortages evident in jurisdictions across the state. A statewide poll MSEA conducted found that giving educators the right to bargain class size would have a meaningful impact on their working conditions and increase the likelihood they would remain in the profession.

Poll findings include:

To address those conditions, Delegate Lewis, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, outlined his goal to give educators a voice in class size in House Bill 890/Senate Bill 962. In support, 2017 Maryland Teacher of the Year Sia Kyriakakos, described classroom conditions that deny students the individual attention they need and deserve. “With today’s educational crisis, with teachers leaving the profession in masses, we need to promote positive working environments where we can all thrive,” she said.

The class size legislation will have a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee at 1 p.m. on March 3. Click here to contact your legislators and urge them to give educators a voice in class sizes.

Senator Zucker, chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, championed the fight for higher ESP wages in his legislation, Senate Bill 831/House Bill 1349. Supporters for SB 831 at the press conference included Morrison and Brad Fisher, the current MSEA ESP of the Year. They described the vital role that ESPs have always filled and the new roles into which ESPs have stepped during the pandemic. “Paraeducators, support staff like me, are providing highly qualified class coverage for teachers who have resigned, are out sick, or must attend a meeting during the day,” Fisher said.

For immediate relief SB 831/HB 1349 would give support staff $500 bonuses in FY23 and FY24, and for longer term results it would establish a workgroup to explore the best ways to raise support staff wages.

The first hearing on SB 831/HB 1349 is scheduled for 1 p.m. on March 9 in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. Click here to contact your legislators and urge them to support this legislation to raise ESP wages.

After Letter from AIB, Blueprint Coalition Pressure, Hogan Submits Supplemental Budget with Missing Education Funding

Seeking credit in a press release for doing what was expected of him, on Tuesday Gov. Hogan submitted to the legislature a $480 million supplemental budget that restores the $140 million in Blueprint for Maryland’s Future funding that he left out of his proposed fiscal year 2023 budget. At a press conference last week, MSEA and Blueprint Coalition members requested that Hogan allocate that funding. A letter from the Blueprint Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) Chairman Isiah Leggett to Hogan, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), and House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore) expressed confidence that the funding was required under the Blueprint legislation. The notion that Hogan promoted that he did not previously have the data to justify the funding strains credulity at best. Hogan’s $480 million supplemental budget includes $99 million in education effort adjustment funding for Baltimore City and $26.5 million for Prince George’s County, to help them meet the cost of new Blueprint programs. Among other education programs that the supplemental budget included are:

Blueprint Implementation Deadline Extension Needed

Leggett’s letter to Hogan also served to remind the governor that his delay in appointing the AIB and underfunding the AIB budget in FY22 have left the Blueprint oversight board unable to meet some of the original deadlines. The letter formalized the AIB’s request for full funding and a deadline extension for at least the first key actions. To support this request, House leadership introduced House Bill 1450, which includes alterations to some of the early due dates of implementation. Under the bill, the AIB’s draft comprehensive implementation plan will now be adopted no later than December 1, 2022, and the deadline local education agencies will have to submit their local district implementation plans moves to March 15, 2023.


Legislative Panel to Decide Future of Mask Mandate in Schools

The joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR) meets today at 2:30 p.m. to consider the State Board of Education’s request to rescind the mask mandate that has been in effect since the fall. State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury stood by the decision to include the mask mandate as one of the effective pandemic mitigation strategies that helped keep schools open to in-person learning with little interruption so far this year before recommending the mandate be lifted. He recommended to the SBOE on Tuesday that they return the decision about masking to local districts. While Choudhury said he thought it was the right time to do it, he expects district leaders to act responsibly in deciding whether and when to abandon the masking mitigation strategy, because the emergency statewide regulation only came to exist after individual districts failed to follow recommended mitigation strategies at the start of the school year.

Blueprint Incentives for National Board Certified Educators Begin

On Thursday, MSDE promoted their recruitment efforts to highlight a key aspect of salary increases in the Blueprint: incentives for National Board Certified (NBC) teachers. For teachers who are already NBC, or when they achieve that certification, there is a $10,000 increase in their salary, and for an NBC teacher who is in or moves to a “low performing” school, there is an additional $7,000 salary increase. The definition of low-performing is a one- or two-star school as defined by the state’s accountability system or a school that a district identifies is in the lowest 10% of performance.


GOP’s Schulz Makes Lieutenant Governor Choice

Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Hogan Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz picked Dr. Jeff Woolford, an assistant health secretary in the Hogan administration, for her lieutenant governor running mate.