And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
The Maryland Senate is scheduled to vote on the Fix the Fund Act, Senate Bill 1122, on Monday and move it one step closer to placing a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot in November 2018. The bill was amended in committee, including a significant improvement, to begin the mandate of the supplemental funding from the Education Trust Fund starting in the next budget (FY20) rather than the first year of a Kirwan phase-in proposal (FY21). This change will help generate more new money faster for our schools.
The Senate also debated and rejected an amendment that sought to restrict the use of money from the phase in to only fund school safety initiatives (metal detectors, bullet-proof doors and window, school resource officers, etc.). The floor amendment was mostly political gamesmanship — spearheaded by Gov. Hogan — because the only limiting factor on how money is spent in the constitutional amendment is a guarantee that it is new funding to support PreK-12 public education.
The committee vote reflected strong bipartisan support. That is a promising step, but far from a done deal. You may recall last year that the Protect Our Schools Act initially advanced out of committee on a bipartisan vote before it became a more divisive bill with very close votes. The Fix the Fund Constitutional Amendment still needs to clear several more votes before it officially passes the legislature. But, momentum is building and is on our side. The timing of our March to Fix the Fund is perfect to further amplify our message and our voice.
MSEA is marching in Annapolis on March 19. The March to Fix the Fund will ask keep the pressure on the General Assembly to pass a constitutional amendment to ensure casino gaming revenue goes towards increasing education funding. Please RSVP here and widely distribute the form to members and community partners. See you on Monday!
With a unanimous vote, the Maryland Senate approved the $44.5 billion FY19 budget. The budget bill includes dedicating $200 million to a new education fund established to help with the early implementation of a new school funding formula that will be expected for action next year following the release of the Kirwan Commission’s final recommendations. The companion policy bill that goes along with the budget also passed unanimously and includes the restoration of millions in education program cuts from Gov. Hogan’s budget. Thanks to the General Assembly, funding for teacher induction and retention grants, national board certification, and afterschool programs was restored and remains committed in future budgets.
Unfortunately, the Senate-passed budget also includes the governor’s full allocation for BOOST, the state’s private school voucher program. MSEA and other public education advocates are ramping up the pressure on the budget writers in the House of Delegates to strip or significantly reduce the $9 million expenditure. Last week, MSEA shared an analysis of how BOOST sent $315,200 to schools teaching highly controversial curricula. Over the last two years, at least nine schools that reportedly use Bob Jones University and/or A Beka curricula have received vouchers. This week, that curriculum is being read by students and shared in digital ads. Taxpayer dollars should not be spent for schools to teach that evolution is a cult, feminism is a lesson from Satan, or global warming is a hoax. Please watch and share these videos and then call 1–888–520–6732 to ask your legislator(s) to stop the private school voucher program.
While the new school funding formula promised by the Kirwan Commission will not be developed and debated until next session, the Commission’s preliminary recommendations did advance legislation that seeks to make some progress in areas of early consensus. House Bill 1415 extends the life of the Commission through 2018, expands grants for career and technical education, PreK, and afterschool and summer programs. MSEA continues to seek amendments to the bill relating to the proposed literacy intervention program. We know how important individualized support can be for early learners, particularly with reading literacy, but we also know that the research suggests that student learning is improved when that intervention is led by a trained school employee (certificated teacher or paraprofessional). Unfortunately, the bill as written would task privatized and unqualified tutors to take on that work.
The bill is scheduled to be voted today or tomorrow, adding it to the hundreds of bills being moved in either chamber before the Monday crossover deadline. If a bill does not pass out of its chamber of origin before adjournment on Monday, it faces procedural challenges that could make it difficult to pass before the end of session. MSEA has been pushing passage of several important bills before this critical deadline including:
· HB 811: This legislation would require local boards of education to negotiate new employee processing access to exclusive bargaining representatives (like MSEA) and routinely provide relevant contact information for all employees in the bargaining unit. The union has the duty to represent all employees and should be able to contact all employees to ensure proper representation.
· SB 639: Teachers would have the option to request a neutral arbitrator to hear a discipline case rather than the current process of appealing before a local board-selected hearing officer. ESPs already have these rights.
· HB 1536: Expansion of the Maryland DREAM Act would allow qualifying Dreamers to pay in-state tuition rates at public four-year universities.
On Wednesday, thousands of students across the country led a walkout to protest gun violence and demand safer schools and communities. In Annapolis, legislators responded. Several school safety bills were introduced this week, and the House of Delegates passed a few bills to strengthen Maryland’s gun laws, including:
· HB 888: Legislation to ban bump stocks, prohibiting the device that enabled the Las Vegas shooter.
· HB 1302: This “red flag law” allows a judge to issue a protective order on an individual who is deemed to be dangerous or at-risk so they will temporarily not be allowed to own or buy guns.
President Trump demanding loyalty oaths from his Justice Department officials has been well-documented. Now, the Capital News Service reports that Gov. Hogan has required a loyalty test for state employees by requiring some at-will workers to go through his political appointments office. Of course, Gov. Hogan was caught doing the very same thing when he served as Appointments Secretary for then-Gov. Bob Ehrlich.
One week after celebrating the life and mourning the loss of her husband, Linda Norman was sworn in to fill the remaining nine months of Sen. H. Wayne Norman’s term. Jason Gallion is taking Norman’s place on the June primary ballot, but maneuvering at the local level suggests that it will ultimately be Delegate Theresa Reilly who will seek the Senate seat in the general election and Gallion will be slotted for the House seat.