And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
MSEA’s Week of Action has been a huge success, driving public education issues to the top of the General Assembly’s agenda:
· On Monday, more than 400 educators rallied at MSEA headquarters in Annapolis — despite a forecast of heavy snow — and then marched up to the legislative office buildings to visit with their state elected officials.
· MSEA members made more than 700 phone calls this week to legislators with clear asks for less testing and the prevention of school privatization.
· And throughout the week, we have sent more than 4,000 emails to legislative offices urging legislators to support the Protect Our Schools Act, the school accountability reform bill that will balance opportunity to learn indicators with testing indicators in our measurement of school success — and prevent the privatization of low-performing schools.
· The final action was to have members and other advocates tweet at their legislators to show their support for public schools. If you missed the chance on Friday, you still have time. Click here to find your legislators’ Twitter handles and send them a quick tweet.
The flood of educator voices throughout the week had an immediate impact, as the Maryland Senate voted 46–0 to approve the More Learning, Less Testing Act (SB452) yesterday. This bill (called the Less Testing, More Learning Act in the House) limits all federal, state, and district mandated testing to 2.2% of the school year — except in eighth grade when the limit is 2.3% — or about 25 hours annually. The bill also contains an amendment that gives districts a waiver to get over the cap if school-level educators in the local education association agree.
This is a huge deal. Last year, this legislation didn’t make it out of the Senate. But with movement this year, both chambers have now unanimously approved the bill, albeit in slightly different forms (the House version,HB461, has a flat 2% cap, among other differences). The bill would eliminate hundreds of hours of standardized testing across 17 the state.
We will now work with legislators to reconcile minor differences and move the bill forward again before the end of session.
In a Trump-like ranting press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Hogan blasted Democrats in the General Assembly for just about everything under the sun. That included moves in the House to restore funding cuts in his budget proposal for after-school and summer programs, and strike $5 million from the governor’s private school voucher program (known as BOOST).
But he also highlighted the Protect Our Schools Act (HB978/SB871), claiming the bill would take away authority from his State Board of Education. Gov. Hogan — who once campaigned on less testing and more local control for education — is now fully backing his appointees to the state school board in their efforts to take over low-performing public schools and hand over operations to for-profit, private management companies. It is expected that he will veto the Protect Our Schools Act if we are successful at getting it to his desk. That makes it even more important to reach out to legislators to ensure a veto-proof majority.
Meanwhile, the Senate Education Subcommittee did the hard work this week of bringing in stakeholders to discuss and move the bill forward. We will have a more detailed breakdown of amendments as the bill moves through the Senate next week.
Gov. Hogan also announced during his press conference that he will veto the Earned Sick Leave bill should it reach his desk, even going as far as to say the House and Senate versions “are not really serious proposals.” That public threat to worker and family health probably solidified the extra few votes needed to deliver a veto-proof majority in the Senate, passing the bill 29–18 this week. There are some differences with the House bill — for example, it guarantees five days of leave instead of seven — that will have to be worked out before a final bill can get to the governor. Meanwhile, Gov. Hogan boxed himself into the corner of headlines saying he opposes an idea supported by 80% of Maryland voters.
In President Donald Trump’s budget proposal — which is drawing widespread criticism for deep cuts to basic public services — public education programs addressing teacher retention and after-school programs were put on the chopping block, potentially stripping away $48 million for Maryland kids. The cuts help fund $1.4 billion for various school privatization programs, including vouchers and privately managed charter schools.
Noticeably absent from those questioning Trump’s budget was Gov. Hogan, whose current budget makes cuts to the exact same public school programs while similarly expanding school privatization programs.
The governor’s latest misstep on social media came this week after his team changed a Baltimore Sun headline to make
it more positive-sounding for Hogan. The Facebook post linked to a Baltimore Sun story with the title, “Maryland Senate Committee Approves Road Kill Repeal w/Amendments” when in reality, the story was titled, “Maryland Senate committee crafts compromise on transportation scoring law.” The truth is, the governor’s bill to block transparency in transportation decisions was gutted, with the legislature essentially rewriting the entire bill.
It turns out, this isn’t the first time the governor’s staff has used this trick to mislead the public from his official page. They did it with several DelmarvaNow articles, too.
An important school working conditions bill is advancing in the Senate, which would give teachers the right to request an arbitration hearing — instead of a hearing officer selected by the local school board — in the case of discipline action. The full Senate is scheduled to begin debate on this bill next week.
After next week’s five days of action, there’s one more ask we need to make of you and the rest of Maryland’s education community. We can only win on these issues when we have elected officials in place who are willing to work with us and stand up for our schools. That means we have to win elections up and down the ballot in 2018. So, if you can take a sixth action next week, please donate as much as you can to the MSEA Fund for Children and Public Education. Thank you!