And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
As educators try to balance crippling staffing shortages and overwhelming workloads with students’ needs for more individualized attention than ever, MSEA is leading an effort to make class size no longer an illegal subject of bargaining in Maryland. The emphasis that the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future places on hiring thousands of additional educators can have a transformative impact on student achievement, our professions, and our schools. But the ability to negotiate on class size is a student-focused improvement that will ensure that this transformation lives beyond the implementation of the Blueprint as an enduring commitment to our students.
House Bill 890 would give educators the right to bargain class size for the first time. Currently, Maryland is just one of just nine states where class size is an illegal subject of bargaining. Giving educators a voice about their class sizes will help make sure students have the individualized attention they need, keep class sizes small, and reduce educator burnout and turnover. Click here to contact your legislators and urge them to give educators a voice in class sizes.
An important discussion, with the potential to set a costly precedent diverting public school funds, occurred on Wednesday in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. During the hearing on Senate Bill 401/House Bill 415 MSEA President Cheryl Bost testified against the bill, which would establish a law to continue Governor Hogan’s use of public money for unaccountable nonpublic schools through the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) program.
During his administration Hogan has attempted to appropriate millions of public funds for the program that benefits private schools. While legislators have typically reduced his appropriations for the program, it has continued through annual budget language. MSEA has sought to eliminate the program as it not only diverts taxpayer dollars to private schools, it undercuts the public schools that are already underfunded. This year, in addition to including $10 million for BOOST in his proposed FY23 budget, Hogan wants to see the program become law. SB 401 would codify funding for BOOST, starting at $10 million in fiscal year 2024, increasing to $12 million in FY25, $14 million in FY26, and $16 million in FY27 and beyond.
This law would enshrine the ability of private schools to benefit from taxpayer funding without being subject to the same public oversight, nondiscrimination standards, or education standards that apply to public schools that must meet the needs of all students from all socio-economic conditions and neighborhoods. In her testimony, Bost suggested that the BOOST funding should instead be used to address critical needs in public K-12 education, among them increased substitute teachers, school nurses, bus drivers, and community school wraparound services.
MSEA testimony last fall to the Joint Committee on Pensions resulted in Senate Bill 410/House Bill 743, sponsored by the committee chairs Senator Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel) and Delegate Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City). Considering the statewide, ongoing K-12 staffing shortage MSEA supports this legislation, which would exempt a reemployed retired educator from the usual earnings cap. The law would apply to reemployment occurring from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2024, a direct response to the staffing crisis exacerbated by the pandemic.
This measure would enable qualified educators to fill vital roles without financial penalty at a time when experienced educators are leaving the profession earlier than planned and too few aspiring educators are in the pipeline to keep up with attrition and fill new positions. The Pensions Subcommittee unanimously approved the bill after a hearing Thursday, moving it to a full Senate vote.
For those closely following Senate committee hearings, protocols have changed. Starting on Monday Senate committees will meet in person and limited seating will be open to the public. Testimony will occur in person unless the committee chair allows electronic or recorded presentations. Masking will continue to be enforced throughout the State House complex. All standing committee hearings and voting will continue to be livestreamed on the Maryland General Assembly website.
Hogan’s legacy will include the unconscionable opposition and delay regarding the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. Because of Hogan’s 2020 veto, his dragged-out Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) appointment process in 2021, and FY22 Blueprint budget cuts, the AIB is now considering a one-year delay in the start of several Blueprint implementation areas. A year ago, when the General Assembly overrode Hogan’s veto, the schedule intended for state and district implementation plans to be drafted this spring and summer. However, the AIB was not empaneled until the fall and the state budget excluded funds for some AIB staff. The AIB canceled a meeting scheduled for Thursday and is scheduled to meet on Monday to hear from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) on their recommendations on how best to address the implementation delays.
State School Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury asked senators on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee to encourage constituents to complete MSDE’s Strategic Planning survey to guide statewide education policy. Rachel McCusker, the first-ever elected teacher member of the State Board of Education, and MSEA’s recommended candidate in the upcoming election to that seat, serves on the four-member Strategic Planning Committee, which will set the board’s vision for the next several years.
Two more lieutenant governor choices have been announced in the Democratic gubernatorial primary race. Former Attorney General Doug Gansler selected former Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth to be his lieutenant governor. Bread and Roses Party founder Jerome Segal, a retired professor, chose Galena Town Councilmember Justin Dispenza to be his lieutenant governor.
Putting to rest much speculation, Hogan said this week he will not run for U.S. Senate this year. He said he could not see himself as a U.S. senator and said he would not make a decision about a presidential run before next year. Deciding not to run for Senate “does not mean that I plan to sit on the sidelines,” he said.
Former House Ways and Means chair Delegate Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery) has decided to run again. When she stepped down as committee chair at the end of last year, many in Annapolis expected she would take a pass as a candidate for re-election in 2022.
Michael Peroutka, a former Anne Arundel County council member who has advocated for Southern secession, filed to run as a Republican in the attorney general primary. Republican Jim Shalleck, a former prosecutor and elections official, is also running.