And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
As legislators are reviewing the governor’s proposed $63.1 billion budget, Senate Bill 360/House Bill 350, MSEA will advocate for relatively small adjustments that could have important impacts on public higher education. Overall, the budget continues the Moore Administration’s strong commitment to K-12 public schools and providing opportunities to all students by fully funding the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. An area for potential improvements is the budget’s cut of $22 million for community colleges for FY25 and a change in the Cade formula which will result in a reduction of state funds for future years. This budget cut could impact community college educators and students across the state. Not only is community college a valuable pathway for all college-age students, but high school students’ participation in dual enrollment factors heavily in the Blueprint’s college and career readiness expectations. Public hearings on the budget bills will occur on February 1 in the House Appropriations Committee, and February 2 in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. MSEA will advocate to restore full funding to community colleges.
In alignment with our priority to improve working conditions and respect for education support professionals, MSEA is supporting the Responsible Contracting in Our Public Schools Act, sponsored by Sen. Dawn Gile (D-Anne Arundel) and Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard).
This legislation is needed because despite the essential role that education support staff and teachers play, they and their schools are often negatively impacted by a public school employer’s decision to subcontract and privatize essential school services that are typically performed by public school employees. When outside vendors and for-profit companies are providing essential school services—rather than educators who know their students, schools, and communities—it can negatively impact staff, lead to disruption in essential school services that impact students and families, and degrade public transparency and accountability.
Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery) are sponsoring grow-your-own legislation to support education support professionals who want to become teachers. Grow-your-own programs are one of MSEA’s 2024 priorities, and the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland (PSSAM) told the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday that grow-your-own programs are also part of PSSAM’s legislative priority to expand the pipeline of, and recruit and retain more, educators.
MSEA’s bill from last year (SB791/HB883,), has been reintroduced as Senate Bill 545, by Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel). It addresses inequities across job categories in the Blueprint career ladder and encourages school employees who are not classified as teachers to hold, and be paid more for, high levels of certification. SB545 will have a hearing at 1 p.m. February 28 in the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee.
As talk of improving the state’s long-term revenue picture and creating a more progressive tax structure goes on, the Fair Funding Coalition, which MSEA is a member of, has solutions and continues the fight for tax policy that raises necessary revenue by closing unfair loopholes and collecting more revenue from people and businesses that can most afford to pay. At a press conference on Thursday the coalition and allies described their legislation, Fair Share Maryland, to create a fair tax code that generates $1.6 billion for the state’s general fund and gives tax breaks to working families.
The legislative package that Gov. Moore introduced this week has 16 bills that fall into one of four groups: public safety (three bills); affordability (five bills); economic competitiveness (three bills); and public service (five bills). Together they address poverty, housing, behavioral health, apprenticeships, and safe workplaces, among other issues.
With his own budget under review, Moore looked to the federal budget to reduce financial pressure on the state from immigration. Moore joined eight other Democratic governors asking Congress for federal funding and action on the issue of immigration. The letter stated in part, “The sustained arrival of individuals seeking asylum and requiring shelter and assistance, due to lack of congressional action on infrastructure and policies, can only be addressed with federal organizational support and funding to meet the public safety and humanitarian needs of our local communities.”
With an expectation to meet Blueprint targets for literacy and student preparedness for college or career after high school, the Maryland State Board of Education (SBOE) on Tuesday took several actions. The SBOE unanimously adopted a resolution establishing a literacy policy aligned to the science of reading, as recommended by interim state school Superintendent Carey Wright. The resolution requires all school districts starting next year to teach reading based on neuroscience and phonics, known as “the science of reading.” MSDE will draft a policy that outlines the requirement for local school districts to demonstrate that their literacy curricula align with the science of reading.
On Tuesday, the SBOE concluded months of research into effective assessments of college and career readiness (CCR) and adopted changes to allow a 3.0 grade point average and a grade in algebra I of C or above to meet the CCR standard required by the Blueprint. A student may now meet the CCR standard by passing Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) tests in language arts 10 and algebra I; or by having a 3.0 GPA and a grade of C or above in algebra I or pass the algebra I MCAP. Students must meet the CCR standard by the end of the 10th grade under the Blueprint, and if they do not, steps are to be in place to ensure they can meet the standard by the end of their senior year. The GPA standard will retroactively apply to students in the 2023-2024 school year. Starting in fiscal year 2026, the Blueprint will allocate to schools $625 per student meeting the CCR standard.
U.S. Rep Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2nd) announced earlier today that he will be not seek re-election following 11 terms in the House, two terms as Baltimore County Executive, and time on the Baltimore County Council. Ruppersberger, who was repeatedly recommended by educators during his long career, leaves a strong legacy of service, especially as it relates to intelligence and defense issues. The 2nd congressional district will now be the fourth open federal race in Maryland, joining the 3rd district, 6th district, and the U.S. Senate seat currently held by the retiring Ben Cardin.
Labor lawyer John Morse recently entered the primary race to fill the 3rd U.S. House District seat from which John Sarbanes (D) is retiring. The primary will be May 14, and no fewer than 16 Democrats are running. Official campaign finance reports for congressional candidates are due on Wednesday, but in the meantime candidates Sen. Clarence Lam (D-Howard and Anne Arundel) and Sen. Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel) have publicized their campaigns’ fundraising. Elfreth announced she raised $402,576 by December 31, and Lam reported collecting $330,000. Up the Street will share additional reports from candidates as they become available.