We can’t ask our kids to wait any longer
“Don’t ever let an empty chair speak for you at the bargaining table or in the General Assembly. If you want to see an increase in pay, smaller class sizes and caseloads, more support for behavioral health and special education, then join me on March 11th.” — Dona Ostenso
We got the news right before the holidays. Legislative leaders were delaying the long-planned debate to update the state’s school funding formula until 2020 — the formula we’ve been waiting for from the Kirwan Commission, the group of 25 legislators and advocates charged with developing a plan to address the underfunding of Maryland schools. There’s no doubt about it, we’ve been waiting a while and any delay is frustrating.
But the delay in determining the new formula doesn’t mean we hit the pause button on making progress on school funding and the $2.9 billion annual underfunding of our schools. Our kids simply can’t wait. We need to act now. We need new commitments for more funding now. We want to start improving schools, salaries, and staffing now. That’s why we’re rallying on March 11.
The fact is, we must make progress over the next few months. If we’re successful, we can add a billion dollars in new school funding, lock in raises for educators, expand the programs we know make a difference for students, and make it clear to legislators that we refuse to allow our schools to be underfunded any longer. “For two consecutive years, I’ve seen results in the General Assembly when educators take action,” said Dona Ostenso, chair of MSEA’s Legislative Committee and president of the Calvert Education Association.
“MSEA organized around the Protect our Schools Act and the Fix the Fund campaign, passing legislation to reduce testing and adding $500 million in school funding to improve education for our students. “There is power in our classrooms, in our schools, and in our union. Don’t ever let an empty chair speak for you at the bargaining table or in the General Assembly. If you want to see an increase in pay, smaller class sizes and caseloads, more support for behavioral health and special education, then join me on March 11th.”
With Phase 1 in motion, we need to stay on track to reach the $3.8 billion goal.
When the 2020 General Assembly rewrites the school funding formula, we need to make sure that there is adequate money to start funding it right away. That’s why MSEA is asking the governor and General Assembly to commit this year to Phase 2, a $750 million commitment in new school funding next year. That’s the amount that the Kirwan Commission projects is necessary to stay on schedule to reach $3.8 billion in 10 years.
The only way to ensure that the new formula kicks in immediately — and starts making a difference in our schools and classrooms immediately — is for legislators to make that Phase 2 commitment this year. If they don’t, next year’s General Assembly couldn’t increase funding until the following year, pushing implementation way off-track and delaying getting the needed funding to our students. It’s critical that we keep the momentum up and end this funding crisis.
The Kirwan Commission has always worked under the premise that there are three essential steps to creating the transformational education plan Maryland needs: figure out the best strategies and policy; determine how much they cost; and then build a fair and equitable funding formula that delivers the funding needed to implement these policies.
So, we need more than just additional funding — we need it directed very intentionally where it will do the most good. “Our children have now been waiting for a long time for adequately and equitably funded schools,” said MSEA President Cheryl Bost. “Every one of them deserves an equal opportunity at success in their lives, starting with their education.
“In Maryland, we have not yet reached a point where a child has that equal opportunity no matter where they grow up. Funding helps — the research is very clear on that — but funding directed at the right strategies that empower educators to do what they have been trained to do will help us finally deliver on that promise for every student.”