And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
It’s here! After last year’s very successful Week of Action, MSEA has another week of statewide activism planned. This year’s Week of Action starts on Monday, March 13 with our March to Protect Our Schools and runs through Friday, March 17. Here’s what we’re asking members to do throughout the week:
· Monday (March 13): March with hundreds of educators to the offices of your delegates and senator and tell them to vote for our Educators’ Agenda of less testing, more opportunity, and protections against privatization. RSVP here or text MARCH to 84693.
· Tuesday (March 14): Wear red for public education and share your pics using #ProtectMDSchools on social media. Then call your elected officials in Annapolis and ask them to support the Less Testing, More Learning Act. You can reach them at 888/520–6732.
· Wednesday (March 15): With Trump and DeVos calling for nationwide voucher programs, it’s important for Maryland to take the lead on stopping school privatization. Call 888/520–6732 and ask your state legislators to oppose Gov. Hogan’s charter school bill and private school voucher program (BOOST).
· Thursday (March 16): Ask your representatives to stop the efforts of Gov. Hogan’s State Board of Education to forcibly turn struggling schools into charter schools and redirect their funding to private school vouchers. Email them here and ask them to support the Protect Our Schools Act.
· Friday (March 17): Tweet your elected officials in Annapolis and tell them to #ProtectMDSchools. You can find their Twitter handles at ProtectMDSchools.com/tweet. Not on Twitter? Call your legislators instead and ask them to pass the Protect Our Schools Act. You can reach them at 888/520–6732.
Not sure if you know enough about the issues? No problem! Visit mseanewsfeed.com to find out more about MSEA’s legislative priorities and how to help us win.
MSEA’s top legislative priority, the Protect Our Schools Act (HB978/SB871) — sponsored by Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery-District 14) in the House and Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery-District 14) in the Senate — passed the House of Delegates 91–46 this morning, overcoming Gov. Hogan’s last minute efforts to oppose the bill. It made its way through the Ways and Means Committee with minor amendments, and the updated version will now move over to the Senate, where they will begin working on the bill next week.
Earlier in the week, President Betty Weller led an MSEA panel in testifying in support of the Protect Our Schools Act in front of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. The bill continues to receive support from superintendents, district school boards, and other public education advocates, but did receive opposition from the president and vice president of the State Board of Education. Of course, opposition from the Gov. Hogan appointees was expected, considering the legislation limits their efforts to privatize public schools and maintain an over-emphasis on standardized testing.
On Monday night, Gov. Hogan’s latest appointee for the State Board of Education, Brandon Cooper, went before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee for his confirmation hearing. During the hearing, senators questioned Cooper on his lack of experience with education policy, his former employer’s advocacy for school privatization, and his legal history — including drunk driving, failure to appear in court, driving with a suspended license, and failure to pay state taxes.
After reporting from The Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and the AP detailed Cooper’s troubling legal history and lack of education experience, MSEA issued a statement urging Gov. Hogan to withdraw his appointment. A few hours later, word came down from the governor’s office that Brandon Cooper had withdrawn from consideration for the position. Gov. Hogan’s office still won’t say whether they conducted a background check on Cooper — as they have insisted for legislative appointments — with Hogan simply saying they “dropped the ball” and “screwed up.”
Last year, when legislation to limit standardized testing to 2% of the school year passed the House unanimously, the Senate decided not to take action. But what a difference a year makes. This time, after the House again passed the legislation without any opposition (139–0), the Senate Education Subcommittee immediately began working on the bill and voted it forward to the full Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee (where the legislation will be voted on later today). There are some slight differences — the testing limit is now at 24 (elementary and middle) and 26 hours (high) a year instead of 22 and 23 — but the core of the legislation is intact. It will still significantly reduce mandated testing based on educator input.
After passing the House of Delegates last Friday (88–51), the Earned Sick Leave bill cleared the Senate Finance Committee by a 7–4 vote. It has since moved to the full Senate where it is being debated, mostly on a party-line basis. The Senate version of the bill would guarantee at least 6 days (48 hours) for all workers at businesses with 15 or more employees. Gov. Hogan also introduced a much-more watered down version but it is unlikely to be taken up by the legislature. It’s unclear whether Hogan will veto the General Assembly’s final bill, should it pass.
Using a barely known law called the Congressional Review Act, Republican Senators scraped together just enough votes (50–49) to repeal the Obama Administration’s regulations on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The move means that states will be left to submit plans on ESSA without knowing the regulations that guide implementation of the new federal education law. One thing is clear: any attempts by Republicans or the State Board of Education here in Maryland to claim the Protect Our Schools Act falls outside of ESSA regulations just went out the window.
Last week it was former NAACP President Ben Jealous. This week, Montgomery County Senator Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery-District 18) indicated to reporters that he is considering a gubernatorial run, telling the AP he wants to promote “an optimistic vision for rebuilding” Maryland. But he wasn’t the only one. According to Maryland Matters, Baltimore area tech entrepreneur Alec Ross is also looking to launch an outsider campaign. Madaleno and Ross join a long list of potential Democratic candidates, including Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Congressman John Delaney (D-District 6), former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, House Appropriations Chair Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City-District 43), and Jealous.
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!