Short Takes: New Blueprint Explainers, the AIB, Pension News

The Blueprint and Accountability

Have you seen reforms come and go and wondered, “What just happened? Where did all that money go? I thought it was supposed to …” If so, the architects of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future heard you.

Built into the Blueprint is the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB)—an independent seven-member group of education stakeholders with expertise in education policy, teaching strategies, systemic change in complex organizations, and finance.

The responsibility of the AIB is to approve state and local implementation plans, release or withhold funds to districts for Blueprint implementation, and receive reports on state and local execution of all Blueprint programs. In short, it is the oversight board that ensures the Blueprint is being implemented in the spirit of the law and that funding is reaching classrooms, educators, and students as intended. In case of conflict between the Maryland State Department of Education and the AIB, the AIB will have authority.

MSEA President Cheryl Bost is among the six-member AIB Board Nominating Committee which submitted its slate of nine AIB candidates to the governor (the governor appoints seven of the nine nominees) as per the requirements of the Blueprint.

The governor announced his appointments on October 1, when the AIB was due to receive its first reports. As soon as February, the AIB must present a comprehensive implementation plan, which will serve as a model for local school district implementation plans.

Along with the AIB, the Blueprint creates MSDE’s Expert Review Team (ERT) Program, another layer of accountability to ensure the success of the Blueprint. The ERTs work more closely with local school systems, observing program implementation on the ground and making recommendations to the AIB regarding continued funding of a school or system’s Blueprint related programs and services.

The ERT program begins as advisory only in July 2023. Starting in July 2025, the reports and recommendations of the ERTs become the basis for the AIB to consider increased Blueprint funding.

The Blueprint: What’s in It for Students

Want to know all the ways the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is supporting you and your students? We’ve collected need-to-know intel on the Blueprint’s massive investment in equity for all students to show you how the funding directly impacts student-centered programs and professional opportunities and supports. MSEA’s series of Blueprint explainers covers many of the specific areas where the Blueprint has the biggest impact for students, educators,
schools, and communities.

Learn more about the Blueprint and check out the explainers here (scroll down to find the explainers):

Special Note on Blueprint Funds

Remember that fund we fixed in 2018? MSEA’s successful fight to see gambling revenues fund increases to education spending (like they were supposed to) saw a new record for casino revenues and an increase of funds heading to the Education Trust Fund (ETF) and the Blueprint. Total revenues set a record in May of $73.3 million with contributions to the ETF of $53.3 million, an increase of $5.5 million compared to May 2019.

Per the 2018 Fix the Fund legislation, supplemental funding to the ETF must total at least $125 million in fiscal 2020, $250 million in fiscal 2021, and $375 million in fiscal 2022. In all subsequent years, 100% of the gaming revenues dedicated to public education must be used to supplement education funding.

Record Earnings for State Pension Fund

The Maryland State Retirement and Pension System (MSRPS) fund belonging to 412,000 educators, state employees, law enforcement workers, judges, correctional officers, and legislators dramatically outperformed its benchmark growth expectations in fiscal year 2021.

The fund grew by $13 billion to $68 billion in the fiscal year that ended June 30. The total investment portfolio returned 26.7%, net of all fees and expenses, beating the policy benchmark of 24%. The trustees of the MSRPS voted to reduce the system’s actuarial assumed rate of return on its investments from 7.4% to 6.8%. According to the most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report in December, the fund had a funded ratio of 74% and continues on a strong trajectory to reach the goal to be 80% funded by 2026, 85% funded by 2030, and 100% funded by 2039.

“The system had unusually good returns for the fiscal year due to the economic recovery. We made a prudent decision on the advice of our actuaries to lower our expected rate of return,” said Doug Prouty, the educator- and retiree-elected MSRPS trustee. “The high returns for the ’21 fiscal year enabled this decision by smoothing out the effect of this adjustment in the rate of return. This will mean more stable contribution rates for both state and county governments.”

A Community School Welcomes NEA President Becky Pringle

NEA President Becky Pringle visited Baltimore Highlands Elementary with local ESP and teacher leaders Jeanette Young (above center) and Cindy Sexton (above right). The Blueprint expands the number of community schools like Baltimore Highlands, which provides extensive wraparound services and supports to students and their families. “When I meet with the Secretary of Education, I will tell them the story of Baltimore Highlands and the impact of what you’re doing,” said Pringle.