The Kirwan Commission Delivers a Preliminary Report

And other start of session updates in MSEA’s Up the Street

The sun rises over the State House on opening day of the General Assembly Session


The 438th Maryland General Assembly session convened at noon on Wednesday, January 10, 2018. This is the final year of a four-year term for all delegates and senators and an election year for the 188 members of the General Assembly and Governor Hogan. Election-year sessions tend to have more rhetoric than policy, but at the start of the session, everyone involved was aware of the critical work that lies ahead on education, health care, and managing the impact of the federal tax bill on Maryland taxpayers and the budget. There is a lot of work to do, and Up the Street will be here to deliver updates, calls to action, and pathways to victory for students, educators, public schools, and the state of Maryland. Let’s get started!


Maryland has set ambitious goals to guarantee that students are college and career ready when they graduate. Unfortunately, those standards have not been supported with adequate funding, staffing, or programs to realize this promise for all students. A state-funded independent study acknowledges that Maryland’s current funding formulas are broken and underfund our schools by $2.9 billion annually. During the 2018 legislative session, MSEA will fight for the policy and budget solutions to support world-class public schools that meet the growing and diverse needs of all students. We will also continue to lead the coalition to reject vouchers and public funding of private schools in addition to defending and strengthening Maryland’s charter school law. Finally, MSEA will push several bills this year to strengthen workers’ rights, including union access to workers and worksites and supporting arbitration rights for teachers.

Please review and share MSEA’s legislative priorities 2018 with elected officials, allies, members, and friends.


Kirwan Commission’s Preliminary Report

The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (Kirwan Commission) concluded nearly 18 months of briefings, studies, consultant reports, and deliberations to present a preliminary report to the General Assembly. Up the Street will include a link to the final version of the preliminary report next week (the Commission made some changes during debate on Monday and we do not yet have the final draft).

The preliminary report links significant policy objectives relating to early childhood education, high quality and diverse teachers and school leaders, college and career readiness pathways, support for at-risk students, and general governance and accountability issues. Those five policy areas are constructed within nine building blocks for a world-class education system brought to the Commission by the National Center on Education and the Economy. The Commission identified a vision for Maryland schools that, if recommendations are implemented, would:

· Provide affordable full-day pre-kindergarten for all four-year-olds and low-income three-year-olds;

· Create the demand for entering the teaching profession necessary to provide an ample supply of high quality, competitively compensated teachers;

· Provide wrap-around services and mental health staffing needed in schools that serve communities with high concentrations of poverty;

· Give struggling learners and students with disabilities the kind of support that will enable them to succeed by increasing the funding weight for students who receive special education services;

· Significantly reduce opportunity gaps based on income and race;

· Expand career pathways for high school students by making career and technology education available for all 11th and 12th graders

The final report will include recommendations on changing the state’s education funding formula in order to accomplish the policy and funding goals outlined by the Commission. That process will be informed by interim workgroups of Commission members to cost-out priority issues and make recommendations that are both achievable and affordable.

The Commission also recommended a series of bills that can create a bridge to the final recommendations expected later this year. The proposed package of bills includes:

· Extending the life of the Commission through 2018;

· Setting up a career and technical education workgroup;

· Funding the existing teacher scholarship program already in law;

· Increasing pre-kindergarten expansion grants; and,

· Funding after-school and summer programs for schools with high concentrations of poverty.

Earned Sick Leave Finally Passed

Governor Hogan spent the last two years trying to kill, dismantle, or otherwise water-down legislation that will provide 700,000 Marylanders with earned sick leave protections, so they can care for a sick child, family member, or themselves without fear of losing their job and income. The fight included super-majorities in both the House and Senate passing the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act in 2017, only to see Governor Hogan veto the bill. On Thursday, the House of Delegates voted to override the veto, and the Senate followed suit on Friday. This is a long-fought effort and is a significant coalition victory for MSEA and the other members of the Working Matters Coalition.

Hogan Putting His Head in the Sand on School Funding

Earlier this week, while the Kirwan Commission was meeting to discuss real solutions to address the chronic underfunding of our schools by $2.9 billion each year and other policy and accountability measures, Gov. Hogan rejected the fact that schools face funding shortfalls. His pivot to blame school districts for mismanagement — and introduce legislation to repeal the Protect Our Schools Act — is nothing more than a distraction from the pressing issues facing every student, educator, and school in the state. Learn more about the governor’s political games here: What Gov. Hogan’s Education Announcement Is Trying to Distract You From.


Election Day is 43 Weeks Away

Despite healthy job approval ratings, Gov. Hogan is polling below 50 percent when voters are asked if they are willing to re-elect him. A new Gonzales Poll out this week shows how challenging winning re-election will be for Hogan and gives the top Democrats battling to face the incumbent governor renewed optimism. This poll is on the heels of another statewide survey statewide survey that found Hogan leading an unnamed Democratic candidate 45 percent-35 percent with the rest undecided.

We will have competitive primaries and critical local elections across the state to track and consider throughout the year, but this governor’s race is going to be one of the most competitive in the country, and when you consider what’s at stake for education funding and policy in 2019 and beyond, we know how important it will be to have a true education champion in the governor’s mansion.

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