And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
On Monday committees in the House and Senate will consider the much-anticipated and essential companion legislation needed to implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. MSEA is examining the details of HB 1372 (and SB 965) for areas that could be improved before passage. As an emergency bill, HB 1372/SB 965 would support the immediate implementation of the Blueprint, a year after the General Assembly originally passed the transformational education legislation. In our early analysis, here are some areas worth noting:
Adjusted Timelines and Prioritized Investments
HB 1372/SB 965 adjusts various near-term program start dates by one year and leaves many out-year dates in place. The new legislation prioritizes programs that relate directly to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the inequities that it exacerbated. Equity was always the Blueprint’s foundation, so its programs naturally align with current needs. Heavily subsidized with federal funding from the December Coronavirus Relief and Recovery Act and this week’s American Rescue Plan, HB 1372/SB 965 will direct funding for summer school programs starting this year; expand tutoring, with a four-student maximum group size; and focus on social-emotional learning.
Beware Additional Assessments
In addition to the legislation’s recommendations for expanded funding for summer school and tutoring programs, there are new mandates related to pre and post assessments for students participating in those programs. Unproven, expensive, time-consuming, and lengthy standardized tests are not what students in search of additional and immediate academic support need most. MSEA will fight for teacher-developed diagnostic assessments that can be administered quickly and provide actionable feedback to inform instruction and additional support for students.
Accountability and Implementation Board
One of the first orders of business related to the Blueprint will be to empanel the seven-member state Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) that will oversee the Blueprint’s 13-year implementation. Strong previous advocacy gave more stakeholders, beyond just the governor, a voice in the nominations process and established a six-member Accountability and Implementation Board Nominating Committee, with two appointees each by the Senate president, House speaker, and governor. Those six will identify nine prospective appointees, and the governor will then select seven to present for Senate approval.
The importance of selecting qualified members of the AIB, who have the expertise designated in the Blueprint, cannot be underestimated. Under the amended timelines in this companion legislation, the AIB will have the authority to withhold dedicated Blueprint funds from districts that don’t meet targets of their individualized implementation plans starting in July 2025. More immediately, the AIB must adopt a Comprehensive Implementation Plan by February 15, 2022, and by April 1, 2022, develop criteria to be used to recommend approval or disapproval of local school system implementation plans. Each school system must submit their district plans, with stakeholder input, to the AIB for approval on or before June 15, 2022. For fiscal years 2022 through 2026 local systems must select an implementation coordinator responsible for the implementation of the Blueprint in the county.
Legislators have time to pass HB 1372/SB 965 and to override a potential veto by the governor, who may choose to repeat his shortsighted decision from last year. Implementing the Blueprint is MSEA’s highest priority this session. The Blueprint will benefit all students, particularly those in concentrated areas of poverty, by hiring more highly qualified and diverse educators and paying them better, expanding career and technical education, special education, and early education.
Senate Bill 1, the $577 million settlement with the state’s four historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), is one vote away from approval by the House. A majority of delegates has already shown support. Last year this legislation passed only to be vetoed by the governor, who blamed the pandemic for his decision. This year, even if the governor repeats that mistake, lawmakers should have time to override a veto. The legislation would begin to restore equity for the HBCUs that the state has failed to fund fairly for generations. As part of the union’s focus on equity-based legislation, MSEA is advocating for SB 1 again this year.
The Board of Revenue Estimates (BRE) reported a strong state position on Tuesday despite the grim reality that because of the pandemic Marylanders have lost 137,600 jobs. Most of the losses have been in jobs paying less than $50,000 per year. These lower wage earners make up 50% of the tax base but account for just 6% of the revenue collections. While their loss affected the state collections very little, “We have a long way to go in the job market recovery,” said BRE Director Andy Schaufele. Corporate taxes have been solid, sales tax is benefiting from federal stimulus packages, and the lottery has done quite well during the pandemic as an avenue for entertainment. From the two earlier federal coronavirus relief packages and this week’s American Rescue Plan, between $45 billion and $50 billion will be injected into the state economy through direct stimulus, unemployment benefits, paycheck protection, and more. Maryland’s rosy revenue position, a far cry from the dire forecast of last May because of the pandemic, puts the state almost where it would have been if there had been no pandemic.
Gov. Hogan is making use of the state’s revenue position to drop another supplemental budget for approval by the legislature. This $74 million supplemental to his FY22 budget was submitted Monday and would give state employees a $1,000 bonus. AFSCME is advocating for this proposed bonus to become a permanent raise. The bonus funds are contingent on passage of the governor’s FY2022 budget.
Final passage this week of the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan means Maryland K-12 education will get $1.9 billion. That’s about $2,200 per student, which will help enable safer education during the pandemic and help students recover from its impact. Those funds will also help address the inequities in education throughout Maryland that were present before, and exacerbated by, the pandemic.
The Rescue Plan requires that no less than 5% of these funds must be used for programs to address pandemic-associated learning loss by offering an extended school year, after-school activities, tutoring, summer instruction, and social emotional recovery. At least 90% of a state’s award must go to local education agencies, which must use at least 20% of their grant for the above-mentioned kinds of programs. The proposed spending of federal funds in the Blueprint companion legislation noted earlier is consistent with this federal guidance.
Greenbelt Mayor Colin Byrd has abandoned a primary run against 5th District U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer and will instead challenge Sen. Chris Van Hollen, citing a determination to make the Senate more progressive. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep Andy Harris’ support for the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and long record of bizarre behavior has inspired a third candidate in the First Congressional District. Former foreign service officer and entrepreneur R. David Harden enters a Democratic primary field that includes Mia Mason, who challenged Harris in 2020, and former Delegate Heather Mizeur. In an interview this week with WBAL radio, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman teased that he may (or may not) run for governor or Congress.