This General Assembly session continued the work of short- and long-term recovery from the pandemic and reinvigorating support for schools, students, and educators driven by the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and its promise of improved staffing, salaries, focus on the recruitment and retention of all educators, and expanded student programs.
MSEA members and lobbyists worked hard throughout the session to make progress on several fronts, including by holding Governor Hogan’s feet to the fire in lawfully and fully funding public education, winning a victory against discrimination, defending honest and accurate education, and shining a light on the workload issues facing all educators—from classroom instructors and paraeducators to school counselors, custodial staff, and bus drivers.
During this legislative session, students, schools, and educators were on the receiving end of a wild budget ride that saw Governor Hogan reinstating $140 million in Blueprint for Maryland’s Future funding required by law but missing from his original proposed budget. The governor’s failure in his final budget to fully fund the Blueprint was a demonstration of his consistent refusal, despite a historic surplus of billions of dollars, to give all students an opportunity to pursue their dreams through funding a high-quality public education.
Despite that, and thanks to the work of legislators and a huge budget surplus, $800 million was budgeted this session to fund the Blueprint’s critical years moving forward, including the promised increased staffing, pay, community schools, student supports, and career and technical education expansion. Among other Blueprint-related programs included in the final budget are:
This is a big win for students, schools, educators, and communities who can witness the transformational change MSEA members and education champions have long fought for. “We kicked things off with internal studies on critical issues and the fight for the casino funds long promised to education. We followed up with the March for Our Schools and participation with the Kirwan Commission. Steady determination has gotten us to this breakthrough point,” said Cheryl Bost, MSEA president. “It’s time now to focus on the implementation of the Blueprint’s game-changing policies and programs in every school district so that students of every race, background, and zip code have a great public school in their neighborhood.” Learn more about the Blueprint and what it means for you and your students here.
While unmanageable class sizes, caseloads, and staffing ratios were present before the pandemic, they have reached crisis levels in the wake of the pandemic. Educators know that class size is at the root of the challenging working conditions that drive educators from the profession and hamper students from receiving the individual and small group instruction and services they need. MSEA received hundreds of comments from members about their untenable class sizes and the difficulty of reaching every student, grading every paper, and the overcrowding and workload issues they face every day.
The ability to negotiate on class size at the bargaining table would be a student-focused improvement— reasonable class sizes mean more and better teaching and learning plus room and time for the small group instruction we know is essential for so many students. But negotiating on class size is currently an illegal subject of bargaining in Maryland—one of only nine states where this is the case.
MSEA members’ efforts to win the right to negotiate on class size fell short this year, but there was a steep learning curve for legislators. As we organize for a continued campaign next year, we will keep educating legislators and build on this year’s advocacy to get this bill closer to, and eventually across, the finish line.
Finally, reason and humanity win the day in successfully passed legislation that prohibits local boards of education, K-12 public schools, and K-12 private schools that receive state funds from denying enrollment, expelling, withholding privileges from, or otherwise discriminating against a student based on race, ethnicity, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. It also protects a student, or the parent or guardian of a student, against retaliation regarding a complaint of discrimination.
MSEA has pursued this issue of fairness and equity for many years. For too long, Maryland taxpayers, through the governor’s annual budget, have funded private schools with discriminatory practices while public schools suffered broken air conditioners, leaking roofs, outdated textbooks, and more.
“There is no room for discriminatory practices at schools that accept public funding. Now, like all public schools, private schools that receive public funds must be held accountable for their policies and practices in who they admit, how they discipline, and more,” said Cheryl Bost, MSEA president. “Districts and private schools must publish an antidiscrimination statement in its student handbook and provide all students with clear expectations of behavior and the protections they are rightly due.”
MSEA believes in honest and fair education—that means recognizing the racially motivated dog whistles and threats of the disinformation campaigns that pit parents against educators. The General Assembly held strong against several bills designed to do just that. “This is about distraction and exclusion,” said Bost.
“Certain politicians and groups use this strategy to create division and chaos. We are proud of the legislators who defended public education and the right of every child to an honest and accurate education delivered by skilled, educated professionals.
“We have the opportunity of a lifetime with the Blueprint’s focus on educational equity. MSEA will always stand for education that respects, reflects, and supports children of every race, gender, sexual orientation, background, and origin.”
MSEA kept a close eye on bills addressing virtual learning and worked closely with legislators and advocates to pass bills that develop specific guardrails to support equity and ensure high-quality virtual education. The virtual education legislation establishes guidelines for the development and operation of virtual schools, requires MSDE to advise on best practices for virtual learning, and addresses procedures for in-person schools utilizing virtual learning due to weather or emergency conditions.
Highlights of the bill include that all virtual educators must be public school employees, that educators may not be required to teach in-person and online students concurrently, and that students have access to extracurriculars and wraparound services. The legislation also aims to ensure that staff and students have access to required technology and that the student body of virtual schools reflects the diversity of the county.
This is just the beginning of the work to be sure students receive the education they are due when virtual options are employed. MSEA will urge Governor Hogan to enact this law and track the implementation to determine if further refinements need to be made.
To help address crippling staffing shortages, we also successfully passed a bill that exempts a reemployed retired educator from the usual earnings cap, thus providing incentives to fill vacancies with experienced educators. This legislation applies to reemployment occurring from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2024.
Finally, union members like you should know that a bill also passed this session to allow union dues up to $300 to be factored in as a subtraction modification from future income taxes.
“We made strong progress during this session, and we’ll keep building on it in the future—we hope that’s with a strong and collaborative ally in the governor’s mansion,” said Bost. “With our strong voice, we can deliver the support, relief, and resources that all of our students, educators, and communities deserve.”