And other legislative updates in this month’s Up the Street
The ongoing health and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have kept Gov. Hogan from acting on the nearly 700 pieces of legislation he received April 7, including the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. While he stated that he is not likely to sign into law any bill that increases spending, he has until May 7 to sign or veto. He did not rule out the possibility that he might do neither, which would let legislation become law.
What has become clear because of the pandemic is that the Blueprint is more important than ever. However, the coronavirus has had such serious economic impacts statewide that the veto-proof majorities supporting the Blueprint during the General Assembly session cannot be taken for granted if a veto override is needed. It’s imperative that legislators understand that the pandemic has multiplied the factors that make the Blueprint necessary. It strengthens the education system, expands and stabilizes the educator workforce, expands opportunities for student success, and adds safety nets that will boost the state’s recovery from the pandemic.
Our kids can’t wait any longer for the funding and support they deserve, and the state’s economic future depends on it. Thank legislators for their past support of the Blueprint and assure them that it is still the best path forward. For details about the Blueprint please review and share the information in this document, which dissects the legislation.
The ongoing school closures and distance learning generate countless questions for educators about this school year and next. At MSEA we continue to get answers to help ease difficulties and reduce concerns for our members. MSEA is producing weekly information sessions, through our Learn More at 4 Q&A on Facebook (Wednesdays at 4 p.m.). On April 21 we conducted a second teletown hall to answer many questions for thousands of members. MSEA will continue to respond to emailed questions and to publish answers and updates on our website.
The glaring digital divide made obvious by the pandemic is exacerbating the inequity in education for thousands of students who do not have access to the technology and materials needed to keep up with their classes since distance learning began. Thousands of students have been “absent” or out of touch since the remote learning began, according to a survey of school districts conducted April 7–13 by the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland. They reported that 25% of students in some districts have not connected with their teachers and classes. In some of the districts, students are also not able to travel to pick up paper packets that are the alternative to online lessons. These missing students will fall behind their peers, and that will create a new challenge for their teachers next year.
MSEA President Cheryl Bost has advocated with U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen to use some of the state’s $208 million share of the $13.2 billion federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to close the digital gap.
In two April meetings, the State Board of Education (SBOE) approved some of the waivers MSEA supported in response to the pandemic’s effects on education. One of the waivers allows teacher candidates in good standing before the state of emergency to be granted a provisional certification, before completing some of their requirements, to make them eligible for hiring next year. The waiver extends the period of time they have to take the certifying Praxis or other assessment. MSEA advocated for a one-year waiver, but the SBOE approved a provisional certification that is good for 6 months from the date the state of emergency ends.
In other waivers, the SBOE granted leeway in what fulfills the student teacher clinical internship requirement, allowing participation in the school’s distance learning practices to count. For this year, MSEA successfully advocated for the SBOE to waive the student growth measure that is usually part of annual teacher and principal evaluations. We continue to advocate that any educators who have completed both the professional practice and student growth portions for the year and want to use both in their evaluation should be able to do so. Any modifications to the professional practice portions would be a local decision.
Several other waivers were adopted as well, including, effective through January 2021, allowing localities more than 45 days past the end of a grading period to make grade changes. Also, the deadline to notify certificated teachers about contract renewals was waived and extended 45 days. For probationary teachers hired before January 1, the May 1 deadline to be notified was moved to June 15. For probationary teachers hired after January 1, the June 15 deadline was moved to July 29. Another waiver allows localities to shorten the mandatory 180-day school year by as many as five days (but each locality must request the waiver). High school seniors, including career and technical students, may graduate in 2020 without passing the usually required tests or CTE practical experience if they have completed their 21 credits.
Democrat Kweisi Mfume is the winner in the April 28 special election to Maryland’s 7th Congressional District. The election became the first state test of a vote by mail election. Mfume will complete the unexpired term of Elijah Cummings, who died in October and had represented the district since 1996. Mfume represented the district for 10 years before Cummings. The district includes parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard County and has a 4–1 Democratic Party registration advantage. Mfume received approximately 73% of the vote while Republican Kimberly Klacik received approximately 23%.
Mfume and Klacik are on the ballot again as part of the June primary and will have to defeat many of the same candidates they defeated as part of the special election process used to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Cummings. Rep. Mfume is certainly the front-runner for the nomination, but the expanded electorate that is expected as part of the presidential and Baltimore City elections also being on the ballot make it still an interesting race to watch.
Maryland’s primary was moved to June 2, 2020 and is being run almost entirely by mail. The Board of Elections is planning to mail ballots to all registered voters the week of May 4. When you receive your ballot, you can complete it, sign it, and mail it back. The return mailing doesn’t require postage and must be postmarked no later than primary day, June 2. For more information and answers to questions about this unique election please review and share this FAQ. And of course, to find educator-recommended candidates, visit www.MDAppleBallot.com.
In addition to the presidential and Baltimore City elections noted above, there are several competitive and important Board of Education elections at the local level in counties across the state. And Cecil County is the only charter county in the state with their County Executive and County Council seats on the same calendar as the presidential election, so those local government seats are on the primary ballot as well.