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  • Maryland Now Leads the Fight to Protect Public Education from Betsy DeVos

    And Gov. Hogan isn’t happy about it

    Credit: U.S. Department of Education

    Yesterday, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Protect Our Schools Act by veto-proof majorities in both the House (87–50) and Senate (32–15), overcoming misleading threats and false talking points from Gov. Hogan. The governor now has six days to sign it into law, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it — and he has been quite clear that he will stand with Betsy DeVos and school privatization advocates and reject the bill. Amid surging grassroots support for the bill from Maryland educators, public education advocates are calling on legislators to override Gov. Hogan’s anti-public education veto.

    The legislation prevents the Hogan administration from using a new federal school accountability law — the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)— to convert public schools into privately-operated and for-profit charter schools, issue private school vouchers with federal funding, create a privatized state-run school district, or hire for-profit management companies. ESSA requires states to set aside 7% of its federal Title I funds for improving low-performing schools, and this legislation ensures that none of that funding can be redirected to private and for-profit operators. Instead, it will now be invested in real evidence-based solutions — determined by educators, parents, and community leaders — to improve existing neighborhood public schools.

    Invest and Improve: A Smarter Way to Hold Schools Accountable for Equity in Education

    For the last fifteen years, schools have operated in a deeply counterproductive “test and punish” culture that has narrowed curriculum, stripped away instruction time, led to teacher shortages, and failed to close long-standing achievement gaps. Based on these failed results, Congress decided to get out of the way and give control over school accountability back to the states.

    “We have an obligation to our children to try something new and change the status quo. 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.” — Gerald Stansbury, president of the Maryland State Conference NAACP

    The Protect Our Schools Act makes Maryland a leader in the new “invest and improve” movement to hold schools accountable for narrowing inequities in opportunity as a way to close achievement gaps. To make room for multiple measures of student progress, the legislation limits testing-based measures of school success — like the PARCC test, HSAs, and other standardized tests — to 65% of the accountability system. The other 35% would be reserved for looking at whether all students have access to the same important opportunities to learn. This asks schools to direct time and resources to more than test administration and prep — instead, putting funding towards addressing the opportunity gaps that create the inequities in student outcomes.

    “The Maryland proposal described in the Protect Our Schools Act allows for the consideration of both academic and opportunity indicators that are critical to any robust accountability system focused on student success and continuous school and district improvement.” — Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute

    For example, the legislation makes school climate surveys — responses from students, parents, and educators on things like parental engagement, school safety, discipline policies, and support from administrators — indicators of school success. In addition to school climate, the Maryland State Department of Education and State Board of Education will get to decide on two additional “opportunity” measures of school quality, like class size and the percent of teachers with advanced certification, or the number of school counselors and access to career and technology education programs. The legislation also ensures that completion of a well-rounded curriculum — including the arts — is part of the equation.

    “Testing alone cannot be the only tool to measure the success of a school, which is why it is essential the state must include other school quality and student success indicators. Significant research shows that this will provide a clearer picture of staff and student experiences in a school and which areas need improvement.” — Rick Tyler and Bebe Verdery, Co-Chairs of the Maryland Education Coalition

    This new approach is backed by Maryland’s education stakeholder community, including: NAACP — Maryland State Conference, Maryland PTA, Parent Advocacy Consortium, CASA de Maryland, Disability Rights Maryland, Maryland State Education Association, ACLU of Maryland, Baltimore Teachers Union, Advocates for Children and Youth, School Social Workers in Maryland, League of Women Voters, Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance, Attendance Works, Maryland Coalition for Community Schools, and Maryland Out of School Time Network.

    Now Hogan Is Lying About Loss of Federal Funding

    Without any convincing arguments against the Protect Our Schools Act, Gov. Hogan is now attacking the bill by claiming it will jeopardize $250 million in federal Title I funding. Here’s his argument:

    The Department of Legislative Services reviewed the original bill language that said testing-based and opportunity-based indicators should be weighed 51%–49% and thought the U.S. Department of Education might determine such a ratio does not meet ESSA’s standard that the test-based academic indicators be weighted “much more” in the aggregate than the other school quality indicators. If a state’s ESSA plan is rejected for non-compliance and the state refuses the subsequent opportunity to resubmit a new plan with necessary changes, federal law says the Secretary of Education may withhold Title I funding.

    But there’s a huge problem with that claim. Nothing in the Protect Our Schools Act violates ESSA, especially now that the ratio of academic to school quality indicators is 65%–35%. The Maryland Attorney General’s office told legislators “nothing in House Bill 978 directly conflicts with federal law.” With no regulations in place — and language in ESSA that prohibits the Secretary of Education from rejecting a state plan unless it directly conflicts with federal law — there’s no way for Maryland’s plan to legitimately be rejected.

    And this morning U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee and Republican co-author of ESSA, weighed in to clarify congressional intent: “My goal with [ESSA] was to return that debate and those decisions right where they are: to the Maryland state assembly in Annapolis. They should decide how much test results should factor into their accountability system.”

    Want to prevent the DeVos school privatization agenda from coming to Maryland? Email or call (1–888–520–6732) your legislators and urge them to override Gov. Hogan’s threatened veto of the Protect Our Schools Act.

    Maryland Now Leads the Fight to Protect Public Education from Betsy DeVos was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

  • Hogan Tries to Save Trump-DeVos Education Agenda in Maryland

    The governor teams up with Trump education advisor’s group

    Credit: U.S. Department of Education

    TThis week, the Maryland General Assembly will vote on the Protect Our Schools Act (HB978/SB871), legislation that would give Maryland the strongest, smartest, and most transparent accountability system in the country while preventing the privatization of low-performing schools.

    Gov. Hogan and his school privatization allies are doing everything they can to defeat the bill because it stops them from overruling parents and teachers and handing the operations of public schools over to for-profit and corporate interests. Just like Betsy DeVos did in Michigan to disastrous results.

    A sobering look at what Betsy DeVos did to education in Michigan - and what she might do as secretary of education

    They’ve enlisted controversial school privatization proponent Michelle Rhee, the Fordham Institute (a leading national right-wing school privatization think tank), and MarylandCAN — an organization formerly led by Jason Botel, Donald Trump’s education advisor. MarylandCAN is an affiliate of the controversial, billionaire-funded 50CAN, which recently merged with Rhee’s own highly partisan StudentsFirst.

    Despite the bill’s strong support among organizations that count thousands of real Marylanders among their members, these groups are working hard to defeat this bill and defend the Trump-DeVos-Hogan agenda to privatize Maryland’s public schools.

    The Protect Our Schools Act Is About Who Has Control Over School Decisions

    Meanwhile, parents, educators, and civil rights groups are in strong support of the Protect Our Schools Act:

    “Parents deserve to have a seat at the table when decisions are made on how to improve our kids’ schools. Corporate special interests trying to make a profit off our children shouldn’t be drowning out the voices of parents.” — Elizabeth Ysla Leight, president of the Maryland PTA.
    “The Protect Our Schools Act is a measured approach to ensuring that the needs of all students, including immigrants, are front and center in education policy. By promising to veto the act, the governor is showing yet again that the needs of our state’s children are secondary to his need to advance Trump’s anti-public education agenda.” — Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA de Maryland.
    “Gov. Hogan has once again shown an inability to put the interests of students ahead of Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’ school privatization agenda. Our students deserve schools that are held accountable to stronger, smarter, and more transparent standards. It’s ridiculous that Gov. Hogan is standing against what overwhelming majorities of Marylanders want simply because partisan and corporate interests told him to do so.” — MSEA President Betty Weller.

    This battle between private, for-profit interests and local stakeholders says a tremendous amount about what the Protect Our Schools Act comes down to: who will have the power to decide what happens to low-performing schools? The legislation gives power back to parents and educators who know the kids best. But Gov. Hogan would rather put for-profit management companies — like Edison Schools, a firm co-founded by one of Hogan’s appointees to the State Board of Education — in charge.

    Support and opposition to the Protect Our Schools Act comes down to who should be in charge of education decisions. Supporters want local parents and educators to have a say in how low-performing schools are improved. Opponents want the state to take over schools and hand control to for-profit firms looking out for their bottom line first and students second.

    That’s why the Maryland Education Coalition — a group of student-focused child advocates — just announced their support for the Protect Our School Act: “The Maryland Education Coalition unanimously supports Senate Bill 871/The Protect Our Schools Act as amended and urge all members of the Maryland State Senate to do the same in the best interest of all of Maryland 880,000 plus public school students statewide.”

    Gov. Hogan insists on working with Donald Trump to privatize Maryland’s public schools even though his own voters — including parents — want the exact opposite. Instead of standing with the educators and parents who know our kids best, he’d rather help Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump push their radical agenda to take over and privatize our public schools.

    Gov. Hogan has made it very clear that a NO vote on the Protect Our Schools Act is a YES vote on the Trump-DeVos education agenda.

    Hogan Tries to Save Trump-DeVos Education Agenda in Maryland was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

  • Gov. Hogan Threatens to Veto the Protect Our Schools Act

    And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street

    WJLA and numerous other stations covered the protests surrounding Gov. Hogan and Secretary DeVos’ visit to a Montgomery County school on Thursday.


    The Protect Our Schools Act is up for an important vote in the Senate. Please send your senator an email or give them a call at 1–888–520–6732 asking them to support the bill. Thank you!


    Gov. Hogan Threatens to Veto the Protect Our Schools Act

    The Protect Our Schools Act (HB978/SB871) continues to move towards passage, with the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee voting to move the bill to the full Senate floor earlier this week. The full Senate has now started to debate the bill with a final vote likely coming early next week. The legislation would balance testing and opportunity to learn indicators in our state’s school accountability system, give educators a voice in how their schools are improved, and prevent the privatization of low-performing schools. In an interview this week, MSEA President Betty Weller explained that it’s time for a change when it comes to how we measure and improve schools: “We’ve lived in a test-and-punish culture and it hasn’t closed the gaps in achievement. We know kids are not going to test their way out of poverty.”

    Gov. Hogan’s expected veto threat finally arrived — as first reported by The Baltimore Sun — during a press conference today. In doing so, Gov. Hogan is not only breaking a campaign promise to reduce testing and return education decision-making back to local parents and educators, but he is continuing to pursue the very same privatization agenda as President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (more on her and Hogan teaming up in a bit). He opposes the bill because it prevents his State Board of Education from converting public schools into for-profit charter schools, closing public schools in favor of private school vouchers, or the hiring of a for-profit management company to take over public schools. Simply put, he opposes the bill because the General Assembly is trying to prevent his privatization agenda.

    It is likely that the governor will unleash the full force of his political operation to stop the bill’s passage. He and his staff are even accusing teachers of putting themselves before their students — a deeply insulting and personal attack on the hard work you and educators across Maryland do every day. We need all hands on deck to make sure members of the General Assembly know this legislation will help students get a better education. Every call made to a senator today could be the difference between winning and losing.

    Betsy DeVos Visits a Maryland School — With Hogan by Her Side

    It’s no coincidence that Gov. Hogan’s veto threat came as he teamed up with Secretary DeVos. The two joined together to visit a Montgomery County public school, reading to kids for a photo-op and then leaving quickly. Meanwhile, hundreds of parents in the local community protested their joint privatization agenda outside of the school, chanting “Public Schools Are a Public Good” in support of public education.

    It was a truly grassroots display of how frustrated Maryland voters are with Gov. Hogan’s willingness to help the Trump Administration and its harmful policies — especially when it comes to privatizing schools.

    Back in Annapolis, both Senate President Mike Miller (D-Calvert, Charles & Prince George’s-District 23) and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel-District 30A) criticized the governor’s appearance with DeVos. Busch told the Legislative Black Caucus that if DeVos and Hogan get their way, “They’re going to break down the school system.” Miller told reporters at a news conference that Maryland would return to ranking first in the nation for education, “but not with help from Betsy DeVos.”


    Senate Passes Teacher Arbitration Bill

    Last week, we mentioned an important school working conditions bill (SB760) that would give teachers the right to request an arbitration hearing — instead of a hearing with an officer hand-picked by the local school board — in suspension or termination cases. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Guy Guzzone (D-Howard-District 13), passed the Senate 32–15 and now moves to the House, that will hopefully begin work on the bill shortly. This would give teachers a much fairer discipline process — a right that ESP members already have.

    Educator Whistleblower Protections Pass House

    As directed by a New Business Item during the 2016 fall representative assembly, MSEA has been working with Del. Jimmy Tarlau (D-Prince George’s-District 47A) — a longtime labor champion — to pass legislation (HB1145) prohibiting school systems from punishing an educator for acting as a whistleblower. The bill specifies that educators are protected in reporting three areas of misconduct: (1) an abuse of authority, gross mismanagement, or gross waste of money; (2) a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or (3) a violation of law. We are happy to report that the bill received a unanimous vote in the House of Delegates (139–0) and now moves to the Senate.

    Maryland Voters Name Public Education Top Issue

    In a brand new Washington Post poll, Maryland voters were asked “Which of the following issues do you want Maryland’s governor and state legislature to work hardest on: (the state budget), (the state economy), (public education), (transportation and infrastructure), (drug abuse), (taxes) or something else?” Way out in front was public education, which was named by 38% of voters. The next highest priority for voters was a three-way tie between taxes, the economy, and drug abuse — with 12% of voters selecting those options. With education so clearly the number one priority of voters, it’s no wonder that Gov. Hogan’s education approval rating is a full 15 points below his overall approval rating — which, by the way, went down by six points from the last Washington Post poll.

    CAMPAIGN 2018

    Hogan Re-Elect Numbers Begin to Crumble

    In an article titled, “Hogan’s deep popularity in Md. weakens when voters consider 2018,” the Washington Post details how despite a 65% approval rating, just 41% of Maryland voters say they plan to vote to re-elect Hogan and 37% say they plan to vote for the Democratic nominee. As the Post writes, “The margin has narrowed since September, when Hogan held a 46 to 30 percent edge over a generic Democrat.” Hogan’s lead has shrunk by 12 points in just a handful of months, perhaps due to his unwillingness to stand up to President Trump.

    Baltimore Lawyer Joins List of Potential Democratic Candidates

    Former Venable Chairman Jim Shea, a prominent Baltimore lawyer known for his support of Martin O’Malley’s successful bid for governor in 2006, is now considering a run for the state’s highest elected position himself. Shea was chair of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and is a long-time donor to Democratic candidates and causes. It’s possible that he could self-fund a significant part of his campaign, should he decide to run.

    Rebuilding Starts Now

    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.

    Gov. Hogan Threatens to Veto the Protect Our Schools Act was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

  • Who Proposed This Education Budget: Trump or Hogan?

    Hint: It’s a trick question

    Credit: Executive Office of the Governor (left) and Creative Commons (right)

    It’s 2017, and a mystery chief executive just released a proposal for government spending in his fiscal year 2018 budget. He chose to cut funding for an after-school and summer program targeted at low-income public school students and a grant program aimed at reducing teacher turnover. Instead, his budget redirects that funding to private school vouchers.

    Who is it?

    If you guessed President Trump, you’re right.

    And if you guessed Gov. Larry Hogan, you’re also right.

    Trump and Hogan Want to Fund (and Cut) The Same Education Programs

    In January, we wrote about how Gov. Hogan’s budget contradicted his talking point that private school vouchers don’t take money away from public schools (he even said “if anything it provides for more public school funding”).

    To recap, Gov. Hogan’s budget cut more than $20 million in funding from the following programs:

    1. Public Schools Opportunities: $7.5 million for after-school and summer programs
    2. Next Generation Scholars: $5 million for college readiness scholarships
    3. Teacher Induction and Retention: $8 million to reduce teacher turnover

    It also included $7 million for BOOST, the governor’s failed voucher program that has done little more than subsidize expensive private school tuition.

    The governor is legally required to introduce a balanced budget. That means it’s a zero-sum document; Hogan chose to cut those public school programs in order to fund private school vouchers.

    Well, it looks like the White House found a little inspiration in Gov. Hogan’s private school prioritization. Because last week, President Trump proposed a budget that cut funding from the exact same public school programs while increasing spending on vouchers.

    Here’s Education Week’s reporting:

    “The proposal would completely scrap two big programs: Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, or Title II, which is currently funded at $2.25 billion and helps states and districts hire and provide professional development for teachers. The budget proposal would also get rid of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which is funded at more than $1 billion currently and finances after-school and extended-learning programs.
    “Trump is also proposing a new $250 million private school choice initiative that could provide vouchers for use at private schools, including religious schools.”
    “The priorities Donald Trump outlined in his budget are reckless and wrong for students and families. If enacted, the Trump budget will crush the dreams of students and deprive millions of opportunities.” — NEA President Lily Eskelsen García

    A Potential Double Whammy for Maryland Students

    If enacted, Trump’s budget would cut $48.3 million from Maryland public schools. Combined with Hogan’s cuts to public schools in his budget, that would take away roughly $68 million — coincidentally the same amount of school funding cut by the governor in 2015.

    This would slow achievement and limit opportunity for thousands of kids in Maryland. According to the Maryland Out of School Time Network, 243,000 children are at risk of hunger in Maryland and 270,873 school-age students are unsupervised for an average of 10 hours per week. Our kids rely on after-school programs like the ones cut by Trump and Hogan for a meal after school and a place to continue their education. And these programs show real results: the most recent program analysis of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program demonstrated participant gains in homework completion, attendance, and math and English grades.

    Maryland also has a major teacher turnover problem — which makes cutting funding for teacher retention programs a bad idea. According to Maryland State Department of Education data, more than half of new teachers leave the profession in their first three years. Teachers need experience to learn how to adjust classroom management and lesson plans to improve their own instruction — and the more inexperienced teachers are, the harder it is for students to make gains.

    Richard Ingersoll, a University of Pennsylvania professor and leading researcher on teacher turnover, estimates that turnover costs school districts in Maryland somewhere between $20 and $45 million per year. So those cuts to teacher retention programs by Trump and Hogan have a compounding effect.

    Meanwhile, more and more evidence is showing that vouchers don’t boost student achievement. Here’s the latest takeaway from Stanford University Professor Martin Carnoy, who examined research over the past 25 years, including studies of programs in Milwaukee, New York City, Washington, D.C., Indiana, and Louisiana:

    “The lack of evidence that vouchers significantly improve student achievement (test scores), coupled with the evidence of a modest, at best, impact on educational attainment (graduation rates), suggests that an ideological preference for education markets over equity and public accountability is what is driving the push to expand voucher programs.
    “Ideology is not a compelling enough reason to switch to vouchers, given the risks. These risks include increased school segregation; the loss of a common, secular educational experience; and the possibility that the flow of inexperienced young teachers filling the lower-paying jobs in private schools will dry up once the security and benefits offered to more experienced teachers in public schools disappear.”

    Hogan may not have voted for Trump, but that doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether they share the same policy priorities. On some issues, like health care and refugees, Hogan has been silent when Trump’s actions clearly harm Maryland families. But the governor goes one step further on education — he’s actively pursuing the exact same agenda.

    Who Proposed This Education Budget: Trump or Hogan? was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

  • MSEA’s Week of Action Leads to Major Progress

    Bills on over-testing and privatization advance thanks to educator activism

    Educators had a big week last week — with substantial levels of activism leading to significant steps in the right direction on the Protect Our Schools Act, the Less Testing, More Learning Act, and turning back Gov. Hogan’s private school vouchers program.

    Here’s the recap:

    Nearly 500 educators joined the March to Protect Our Schools in Annapolis on Monday

    Photos © Stephen Cherry

    Including NEA President Lily Eskelsen García…

    And public education champions like Senator Roger Manno and Delegate Eric Luedtke.

    700+ phone calls to legislators

    The calls came in all week long! On March 15, the MSEA legislative hotline hit its highest daily total of calls since 2012.

    4,000+ emails to legislators

    The outpouring of emails ran the gamut from calling on legislators to pass the Protect Our Schools Act, stop Governor Hogan’s vouchers plan, and pass the Less Testing, More Learning Act.

    100+ tweets to legislators

    And while our Wear Red for Public Ed day on Tuesday got snowed out, educators were still shoveling and bundled up in their red.

    Some even started early!

    Here’s What We Achieved Because of Educators’ Activism

    There was some real payoff to all that activism, too. Here’s what happened last week:

    1. The Protect Our Schools Act received a favorable vote in the Senate’s Education Subcommittee late Friday night. It will be voted on in the full Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee (and hopefully the full Senate) later this week, so keep those emails on it coming!

    2. The More Learning, Less Testing Act, which sets a cap on the amount of annual mandated standardized testing, passed the Senate unanimously (46–0). The House passed the bill a few weeks ago; now differences between the two chambers need to be reconciled before the bill can become law. We’re almost there!

    3. The House cut Gov. Hogan’s private school vouchers program by more two-thirds, sending that funding back to afterschool and other public school programs that the governor had cut. The budget isn’t final yet, but this is an important step in the right direction.

    This is major progress — and the power of organized educators speaking with one voice on behalf of our public schools and students.

    But we’re not there yet. Governor Hogan may veto the Protect Our Schools Act, making it all the more important that we pass it quickly so the General Assembly has time to override his veto. Click here to email your legislators or call them at 1–888–520–6732.

    MSEA’s Week of Action Leads to Major Progress was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Print Edition

June/July 2016 ActionLine

Someone has to take a stand.” Learn how Maryland kindergarten teachers took a stand against the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment when it interfered with essential instructional time. Discover how Ruthie the dog brought curriculum to life in an Allegany County elementary school? Read how to build a reflective practice with an end-of-the-year review. 

March/April 2016 ActionLine

One school in Prince George’s County is helping immigrant students thrive. MSEA’s testing campaign reached more than 1,000,000 Marylanders. MSEA is addressing new teacher induction issues. Learn more about equity literacy and how you can make a difference in your students’ success with culturally relevant instruction. ESPs scored a big victory from the Court of Appeals. Focus on educators from Dorchester and St. Mary’s counties. 

January/February 2016 ActionLine

Meet seven young activists who are setting the tone of 21st-century public education activism. MSEA meets the state commission and makes eight common sense recommendations for testing sanity. Learn more about the Friedrichs v California Teachers Association. Retirees take off in Baltimore and Charles counties.