And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
On Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, the Senate Budget and Taxation and House Ways and Means committees had education support professionals, state and local leaders, and education supporters testifying in favor of Senate Bill 831 and House Bill 1349 to address the crisis in education support professional (ESP) staffing and pay. Sponsored by chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus Senator Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery), SB831 takes a short- and long-term approach to the need to increase ESP wages. The crossfiled legislation, HB1349, is sponsored by Delegate Shaneka Henson (D-Anne Arundel).
A crisis exists in the recruitment and retention of ESPs, who are essential to the daily functioning of classroom education, whether they are driving buses, preparing and serving meals, assisting in the classroom, maintaining buildings and technology, keeping records and implementing protocols, or any of the many other critical roles they fill. For the short-term the legislation would give support staff $500 bonuses in both FY23 and FY24, and for long-term progress it would establish a workgroup to explore the best ways to improve support staff wages and make recommendations to the General Assembly for future legislation. MSEA would have a seat on the workgroup.
In the hearings, ESPs from around the state shared details of serious hardships that either they or their peers experience: the necessity to work two or three jobs, loss of housing, chronic financial instability, and the inability to retire with security. MSEA President Cheryl Bost testified in support of the bills.
U.S. House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5th) wrote to the committees, “Considering the vital role [ESPs] play in children’s education, we ought to be doing more to ensure that they receive the pay and benefits they have earned through their hard work.”
In addition to the workers themselves, those testifying in support included Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, Democratic gubernatorial candidate John King, Shannon Sneed, Tom Perez’s lieutenant governor pick, Wes Moore’s lieutenant governor pick and former Delegate Aruna Miller, and lobbyists for the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.
“We are the front line in our buildings and the foundations of our districts but are paid drastically different than our coworkers,” said Stacy Tayman, an ESP with 25 years of service in Calvert County Public Schools. She explained that she will be eligible but unable to retire in December 2024 after nearly 30 years of contributing to the state pension system. “And I currently deliver groceries in my free time just to make ends meet.”
House Bill 1450, sponsored by Delegate Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), chair of the House Appropriations Committee and steadfast supporter of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, would address some of the roadblocks Gov. Hogan has used to impede the Blueprint. The legislation is needed because of the delay in standing up the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB), which was caused by Hogan’s sluggish effort to appoint AIB members last fall and fund the accountability-focused board. The legislation would give additional time for the AIB and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to draft their respective comprehensive implementation plans, which the Blueprint programs will follow for the next decade.
Under the legislation, the deadline for the AIB to adopt its comprehensive plan will be December 1 instead of February 15, 2022; for MSDE to develop criteria for local school systems’ implementation plans the deadline would be September 1 instead of April 1. Local school systems and government agencies would have to submit their Blueprint implementation plans to the AIB by March 15, 2023 instead of June 2022.
The legislation also responds to a request from Comptroller Peter Franchot to simplify the distribution of certain sales tax revenues to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund (BMFF). The bill would establish that, after making certain other distributions, the comptroller would pay to the BMFF certain percentages of the remaining sales and use tax revenues: 12.3% for FY23, 12.5% for FY24, 12.9% for FY25, 13.3% for FY26, and 13.8% for FY27 and each subsequent fiscal year.
The attorney general’s office ruled against Hogan in his claim that when he drafted his FY23 budget he could not reasonably have estimated that $99 million for Baltimore City and $26.5 million for Prince George’s County should be included to help them implement the Blueprint. After MSEA, the Blueprint Coalition, legislators, and other advocates publicly demanded the funding, Hogan submitted a supplemental budget that included the Blueprint funding he had left out.
Voting is open through March 13 to elect a teacher to the State Board of Education (SBOE). The MSEA Board of Directors unanimously endorsed Rachel McCusker, an elementary school music teacher from Carroll County, for re-election as the teacher representative. In a position that MSEA fought to create, McCusker has been the first-ever teacher representative on the SBOE.She joined MSEA President Bost for a Facebook Live recorded on MSEA’s page on Monday, and her achievements and priorities were featured in a recent edition of MSEA’s ActionLine. All Maryland teachers who hold an active Maryland Educator Certificate with at least one teaching area on January 1, 2022, are able to vote in the election here. Further details are on the Maryland State Department of Education website.
The Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates voted Thursday to increase the revenue projections for Fiscal Year 2022 to $22.5 billion, representing an $867 million increase from the December estimates. The Board, which consists of Comptroller Franchot, Treasurer Dereck Davis, and Budget Secretary David Brinkley, also adjusted the official revenue forecast for Fiscal Year 2023 upwards by an additional $737 million to $23.6 billion. The increase is largely attributed to increased individual and corporate income tax collections and higher sales tax revenues.
The news was followed quickly by suggestions from Franchot, the governor, and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) for temporarily suspending the state tax on gasoline. Franchot and Hogan called for a three-month break while Ferguson and Jones suggested a 30-day suspension in collecting the gas tax to relieve the pressure of high gas prices exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to Maryland Lottery and Gaming, February casino gaming revenues were up nearly $37 million (29.1%) compared to February 2021, when the casinos were operating under capacity restrictions due to the pandemic. Contributions from last month’s casino gaming revenue totaled $68.2 million, including $49.6 million for the Education Trust Fund.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore announced a six-figure advertising buy on network television starting Wednesday in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. media markets. Moore also received the endorsement of Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. In the crowded 4th U.S. House district race, former Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D) announced endorsements from some of her former congressional colleagues, Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.).