And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
Thanks to your efforts, the Protect Our Schools Act passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities. Please take a moment to send your representatives an email or give them a call at 1–888–520–6732 to thank them for their support and ask them to override Gov. Hogan’s veto next week!
Despite a veto threat from Gov. Hogan and the false talking points from national school privatization advocates, the Maryland General Assembly stood with educators, parents, and civil rights groups to pass the Protect Our Schools Act (HB978) with veto-proof majorities. On Tuesday morning, the Senate passed the landmark bill with 32 votes, and later in the day, the House concurred with 87 votes. The bill then went to the governor’s desk on Wednesday afternoon, where it will sit until he either signs it into law, allows it to become law without his signature, or vetoes. He has until the end of the day next Wednesday to make his decision and then the legislature has a few days before the end of session to override his veto if necessary.
Legislators joined the pro-public education community in celebrating the hugely important vote.
· House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel-District 30A) said, “It is imperative that we pass this legislation to ensure that schools are educating the whole child and not just teaching to test after test.”
· Senate bill sponsor Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery-District 14) said, “Marylanders don’t want to see school privatization come to our state, and they want Gov. Hogan to protect our students and educators. This legislation does just that.”
· Maryland State Conference NAACP President Gerald Stansbury said, “It’s time to lead the nation in closing the opportunity gaps that lead to inequality in schools. The Protect Our Schools Act does exactly that.”
· And MSEA said, “Bottom line: This is a huge win for students and equal opportunity, and a huge loss for the national school privatization allies of our out-of-touch governor.”
You can read more about the legislation’s passage here. But the fight is not over — we still likely need the House and Senate to take one more vote to override Gov. Hogan’s veto. Review the votes and then contact your legislators to thank them for their support and ask for their vote to override (link and phone number are above).
This week, the House and Senate finished their work agreeing on a state budget for fiscal year 2018 — including the restoration of some education funding cut in Gov. Hogan’s original budget. The legislature included $6.5 million in grants for after-school and summer programs for low-income students, as well as programs aimed at reducing teacher turnover, that got put on the chopping block by the governor. They also included $39 million to help school systems deal with declining enrollment and pre-kindergarten costs and $20 million to help districts cover increased pension expenses. Overall, it included an increase of $65 million for K-12 education over the amount included by Gov. Hogan in his budget proposal.
The legislature also included an increase for school construction funding — $22.5 million more than Gov. Hogan’s request, for a total of $353 million. Meanwhile, the legislature cut $1.5 million from Gov. Hogan’s budget for private school vouchers, redirecting that taxpayer funding back where it belongs: our public schools. That being said, the governor did get $5.5 million for his failed BOOST program, which will continue for another year.
While educators are on track for a very successful session, much work remains to reduce standardized testing, secure fairer discipline policies, and guarantee paid sick leave for Maryland workers:
· Less Testing, More Learning Act (HB461/SB452): The legislation to limit mandated testing to roughly 25 hours a school year has passed both chambers unanimously but in slightly different forms. MSEA is working with leaders on the House and Senate education subcommittees to find a resolution and deliver much needed testing relief before the end of session.
· Pre-K — Second Grade Suspensions Ban (HB425/SB651): This is the bill that MSEA supported with amendments — following an NBI on this topic during last fall’s representative assembly — that prohibits the suspensions of students in pre-kindergarten through second grade, with certain exceptions. Both chambers passed different versions of this legislation, so those differences need to be worked out.
· Earned Sick Leave (HB1/SB230): As part of the Working Matters coalition, MSEA has supported legislation to guarantee paid sick leave for all workers in businesses with more than 15 employees. The House passed the bill guaranteeing seven days, while the Senate passed a version guaranteeing five days. The legislature now needs to reconcile the differences without losing their veto-proof majorities (Gov. Hogan has promised to veto the bill).
It may come as little surprise to educators that billionaire school privatization champion Betsy DeVos is not especially well-liked. But a new poll finds that the embattled Secretary of Education is even less popular than controversial White House aides Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon — in fact, she’s at the bottom of all notable Trump appointments. The Saint Leo University survey found that just 34.5% of Americans approve of DeVos, with 52% signaling their disapproval — including 41% who strongly disapprove.
DeVos likely didn’t win over any additional support after her appearance at a Brookings Institution event this week, where she said that public schools nationwide are in such bad shape that she isn’t “sure how they could get a lot worse.” She was then asked how her Department of Education should be held accountable for student achievement and she said that she wasn’t a “numbers person.” As if those answers weren’t shocking enough, she also tried to compare K-12 education to hailing a taxi cab by saying that public education advocates who oppose privatization are like the cab drivers who stand in the way of Uber.
As part of his misinformation campaign against the Protect Our Schools Act, Gov. Hogan has been claiming that the legislation puts $250 million of federal funding as risk. His argument? The bill fails to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. That falsehood was fact-checked by none other than Republican U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander — who co-authored ESSA himself — when he told reporters that Maryland was free to determine its own state implementation plan without interference from the federal government.
Unsure how to stand up to Donald Trump, Larry Hogan, Betsy DeVos, and the rest of the anti-public education officials in power? Start by donating as much as you can to the MSEA Fund for Children and Public Education. Gov. Hogan has more than $5 million in cash on hand, and that’s not counting any dark money groups he may have secretly formed. This is the only way we can raise our voices to compete with the corporate interests trying to privatize our public schools.