And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
On Wednesday the 2022 General Assembly legislative session will convene, and MSEA’s list of legislative priorities this year focuses on reining in educator workloads and creating safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments for all students.
The emphasis that the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future places on hiring thousands of additional educators can have a transformative impact on student achievement, the profession, and schools. Smaller class sizes and improved staffing ratios increase the opportunity for students and educators to deepen and strengthen relationships—a critical step in supporting academic and social-emotional growth, particularly in the wake of the stresses, traumas, and inequities stemming from the pandemic and long-term racial and economic injustice. These stronger relationships underpin the life-changing relationships that can develop between educators and students and can set students on a path for success and achievement. They will also help educators lessen the often-crippling workloads that are impacting far too many schools across the state.
But currently in Maryland—as in just eight other states—class size is an illegal topic of bargaining. It cannot come up at the bargaining table, even though it has long been a top concern for educators and parents and impacts the amount of individualized attention students receive. The ability to negotiate on class size as a student-focused improvement will ensure that the Blueprint’s transformation will live beyond its implementation.
The pandemic demonstrated that, while virtual learning may continue to exist in some capacity, it is not optimal. While focused on the best conditions for in-person learning, MSEA will advocate for clear policies, guardrails, and expectations for virtual learning. Virtual education should ensure equity and opportunity for all students and educators while protecting quality and connectedness with local systems. Virtual learning educators should be local school system employees, and oversight, operations, and curriculum must be driven by local boards.
The Administrative Executive Legislative Review (AELR) Committee approved, on an 11-5 vote, emergency regulations that went into effect Wednesday to extend for 180 days—through the end of the school year—the mandatory school mask mandate, unless one of three conditions is met that allows lifting it. Those conditions are: 80% of the students and school staff in a school are fully vaccinated; the county where a school is located has at least 80% of the county population fully vaccinated; or a county has sustained 14 consecutive days of a moderate or low transmission rate of coronavirus cases. The options allow lifting the mandate in individual schools or in whole districts. Without the AELR action, the original masking regulations would have expired on February 25.
Implementing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future depends on layers of accountability that include local expert review teams (ERTs) to visit districts. MSEA fought to make sure that educators are included on the ERTs, and now the Maryland State Department of Education has put out a call for educators and administrators to participate. This is the granular level of involvement that can make sure the Blueprint delivers on the promise of serving all students, regardless of color or zip code. On a part-time basis, ERT members will be responsible for visiting assigned schools within Maryland’s 24 school systems to facilitate on-site reviews, focus groups, and complete pre-visit data reviews and post-visit reporting. Further information about the ERTs and the application are here.
Based on the decennial census completed in 2020, Maryland must draw new legislative and congressional district maps. Some Republicans are trying to overturn the congressional map the General Assembly adopted during the December special session, although many previous attempts to overturn district maps have failed. Delegate Neil Parrot (R-Washington) and the conservative Judicial Watch filed one lawsuit and the Republican-backed Fair Maps Maryland is also suing to replace the congressional district map drawn by the Maryland Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission (LRAC) and adopted by the General Assembly. The plaintiffs assert that the state’s constitutionally mandated district requirements to be compact and to respect county and natural borders also apply to congressional districts, although congressional districts are not referenced in the state constitution.
The LRAC also has made public a proposed map for legislative districts that the Senate Committee on Reapportionment and Districting and House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee will review during the regular session beginning January 12. This will be a priority action early in session as the new districts will be used for the 2022 elections and the February 22 filing deadline for candidates seeking office in this year’s elections.
The pandemic-associated decline in public school enrollment that threatened to dramatically underfund public schools in fiscal year 2022 could impact state funding in FY23 unless the legislature grants the same remedy it did for FY22. The Education Subcommittee of the Maryland Association of Counties Legislative Committee, the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland, and the Maryland Association of Boards of Education wrote to Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) to exclude the artificially low 2021 enrollment numbers from school funding decisions for FY23 as was done in FY22.
The Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee selected former County Councilmember Karen Toles to fill the 25th District seat left vacant when Delegate Dereck Davis became state treasurer. Toles will finish Davis’s four-year term that ends in a year. She already had filed to run as a candidate in the district.
State House Republicans re-elected Minority Leader Delegate Jason Buckel (R-Allegany). He brought Delegate Haven Shoemaker (R-Carroll) in as minority whip on his ticket after Minority Whip Delegate Christopher Adams (R-Middle Shore) disassociated himself from Buckel. Adams ran for minority leader on a ticket with minority whip candidate Delegate Matt Morgan (R-St. Mary’s).
The state Democratic Party hosted a virtual forum on Wednesday for gubernatorial candidates on education issues (the forum can be viewed here). Also in the governor’s race, former Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman is exploring a bid for governor, which would make her the first female Democrat in the race. Neuman served as county executive as a Republican but has since become a Democrat. Democratic gubernatorial contender John King picked Michelle Daugherty Siri, the executive director of the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, for his lieutenant governor candidate. In the Republican race, former Republican National Committee Chairman and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele declared that he will not run this year for his party’s gubernatorial nomination.
High-profile names are endorsing current candidates for governor and attorney general. More than a dozen Senate and House Committee chairmen are backing Tom Perez for governor. In the attorney general race, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown (D-4th District) has secured the backing of Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and State Sen. William Smith, chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee; and retired judge Katie Curran O’Malley has endorsements from Senate Majority Leader Nancy King (D-Montgomery), House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery), and four Democratic members of the Baltimore City Council.
In the 4th U.S. House District former 25th District Delegate Angela Angel is officially running to fill the seat that Brown is leaving. She joins a field that includes State Delegate Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s) and former Prince George’s State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey.