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Teacher’s Toolkit: A Poetry Picnic and a Turkey Named Ramone

April 19, 2018 - 2:42pm
What do a fishing rod, a bushel basket, and train whistle have to do with fifth grade anyway?Beth Roe is a fifth grade teacher at St. Leonard Elementary School in Calvert County.“I’m a Chesapeake girl and grew up trot-lining blue crab with my dad. Now I live on the banks of Hunting Creek with my husband, teen boys, and a menagerie of chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, turkey, and recently pigeons. I like to travel, especially with girlfriends, most recently experiencing southwest Ireland last July.” — Beth RoeBELL, TRAIN WHISTLE

See portrait above When students hear one of these, they know to stop what they’re doing and look at me for further instruction.

OUR TURKEY RAMONE, OYSTER SHELLS, BUSHEL BASKET, AND A FISHING ROD

Developing rapport is essential — students begin to trust you and know that they matter. I tell them about my family, my animals, my life on a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

I bring these into math problems, the climate of social studies, and environmental science.

COLLEAGUES, LAPTOPS, AND PANERA BREAD On a recent Sunday, my teammate, another fifth-grade teacher from a nearby school, and I met at Panera Bread to plan math lessons.

A couple eating at the table beside us asked if we were teachers working together on a Sunday. We confirmed that we were. “This isn’t much,” the woman said, “but we wanted to thank you for all that you do.” Then she handed us each a $20 Panera gift card. Turns out that their son is a young teacher in Prince George’s County. What a random act of kindness!

TEACHER RESOURCE BOOKS

Years ago, I took a four-day summer workshop introducing participants to instructional strategies intended to help ELLs, including this book — 99 Ideas and Activities for Teaching English Learners with The SIOP Mode.

I’ve found that these are great techniques for all learners, allowing them to share ideas in creative, fun ways.

DREAM BOX

Our county provides a license to each elementary student for this online program. Students practice math at their own pace both at home and school.

EVERYONE’S IN THE GAME!

I put the names of students in each class inside empty boxes of tissue. I pull the names of students to call on, ask students to pull a name to call on next, or I randomly group students.

ABCD POST-ITS

Desks are arranged into groups of four, each with a colorful post-it note on top that I use to assign tasks. For example: A gets the thermometer; B gets the hot water; C gets the cold water; and D gets the recording sheets for data.

THE POWER OF POETRY

I like to hear words sing to students as the rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, and similes roll from the pages. At our annual Poetry Picnic, we spread blankets across the floor or on the grass outside and pore over our collection of poetry books.

Teacher’s Toolkit: A Poetry Picnic and a Turkey Named Ramone was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

ESPs Are Building Power at Their Locals, MSEA, and NEA

April 19, 2018 - 2:41pm
“I’m making the most of every opportunity.”Denise Lee, Howard County, at MSEA’s ESP Conference.

Empowerment was more than a buzzword at MSEA’s ESP Professional Development Day and the 2018 NEA Education Support Professionals Conference in Orlando, where MSEA members found opportunities for professional growth and building union strength at every event and workshop. Meet the NEA ESP of the Year.

First-time attendee Casey Rudzinski, Frederick County, was among MSEA’s delegation of 53 members to the NEA conference. Rudzinski’s union connection is giving him new resources and motivation: “By getting involved at the local level with my local association, I knew that I could become an advocate for ESPs and provide new and creative ideas.

MSEA’s delegation to the 2018 NEA ESP Conference.Casey Rudzinski, second from left, with Frederick County members and MSEA directors at the NEA ESP Conference.

“I now feel a sense of responsibility to do more for others and the community and I’m making the most of every opportunity to learn how.”

Caroline County paraeducator Letha Jones said, “Attending the conference gave me the opportunity to be briefed on current events and trainings. I will definitely be looking into NEA grants for our local to support students with disabilities.”

Members from across the state attended MSEA’s ESP Professional Development Day.

Understanding how unions like MSEA fight against unfair labor practices, low wages, privatization, and ongoing discrimination and harassment that can keep ESPs from thriving was the focus of presentations and workshops at MSEA’s annual ESP event.

“I am passionate about eliminating unfair labor practices and low wages,” said Howard County’s Denise Lee. “MSEA’s programs show how our individual and joint efforts strengthen our union and improve the jobs and status of all educators.”

ESPs Are Building Power at Their Locals, MSEA, and NEA was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Why Does Janus v. AFSCME Matter to Educators?

April 19, 2018 - 2:40pm
The backers of the Janus case see it as one more way to chip, chip, chip away at unions.Montgomery County kindergarten teacher Kember Kane speaks to fellow union activists in front of the Supreme Court before the Janus v. AFSCME case was heard on February 26. A decision is expected this summer.

On February 26, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a case designed to weaken or dismantle unions and the opportunity for employees to raise their voices and speak up for their jobs, families, and communities.

Today in Maryland, our union — 74,000 educators strong — is at the center of fights for professional salaries for teachers, a living wage for education support professionals, and the staffing and resources to truly serve students and communities with smaller class sizes, more counselors, and more opportunities for every student to succeed.

Speaking in front of the Supreme Court before the case was heard, Montgomery County kindergarten teacher Kember Kane told a crowd of fellow union members, “Our teachers union negotiates for all of us, advocates for all of our needs, and works to protect all of our students. This teachers union is built on unity. It represents our voice and empowers us as professionals committed to the success of students in every community.”

Supreme Court: Janus v AFSCME - NEA Today

Where did this case come from? This time it’s billionaire Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner who is attacking public service workers. It’s just one more example of powerful people trying to tip the scales even further away from the middle class. We’ve heard about the damage done to public education by Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, who stripped collective bargaining rights from teachers who then saw their salaries drop by as much as 11%.

How the Labor Movement Can Win Under National 'Right to Work'

Who is behind this case? The National Right to Work Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center, which are bank-rolled by corporate billionaires who have funded politicians and corporate lobbyists for years to attack unions. Their goal is for the Supreme Court to join their efforts and threaten union members’ living wages, retirement security, health benefits, and more.

What is agency fee and why is this an issue? Agency fees are paid by non- union members to cover the cost of negotiating and enforcing the contracts that every employee benefits from. If agency fees are no longer permissible, that could affect our capacity to organize members into a powerful force for our schools, profession, and communities.

The backers of the Janus case see it as a way to chip away at the power of unions and our ability to be a united voice for all employees.

Bargaining Your Contract — Your Right and Duty

What does this mean for Maryland and MSEA? “Agency fee payers represent less than 5% of our total membership,” said MSEA Executive Director David Helfman. “We want them to understand what we do and to help them make the connections between what’s important to them and what we’re fighting for — improving school funding, strengthening the profession, supporting early career educators, and building communities.

“We’re seeing more and more attacks on working people and communities. We need to protect our common interests by staying strong and united, and asking everyone to join us.”

Why Does Janus v. AFSCME Matter to Educators? was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Legislators Agreed Overwhelmingly

April 19, 2018 - 2:38pm
“We need a constitutional amendment to make sure casino funds are dedicated to enriching school funding.”MSEA President Betty Weller

Since casinos have come online, nearly $2 billion in revenue was redirectedfrom our schools to other areas in the budget by Gov. O’Malley and Gov. Hogan.

Thanks to your advocacy, the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed the Fix the Fund Act, which puts a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to make sure that never happens again. If it passes, it will add $500 million of badly needed school funding to the budget annually.

General Assembly Passes Fix the Fund Act

With 188 General Assembly seats, 127 county council seats, 87 board of education seats, 8 county executives, and the governor on the ballot in November — in addition to the Fix the Fund constitutional amendment — change is coming to the groups of people who help shape our working conditions, contracts, and profession. You know who they are and what they believe. Let’s elect the ones who support our schools.

The Kirwan Commission and the 2019 General Assembly hold the keys to the changes we really need to get our schools back on track. The Commission finalizes its recommendations this fall and while we’re excited about many of its preliminary recommendations — a 30% increase in teacher pay, increases in staffing, expanded pre-kindergarten and career and technology education — we must keep working for strong recommendations, including proposals to increase pay for support staff.

The 2019 General Assembly will debate the recommendations and pass a new school funding formula to close the debilitating $2.9 billion funding gap. There’s no denying that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to show our power to organize, mobilize, and advocate for the resources, programs, and services we know our students need.

From students marching for safe schools to educators marching for adequate funding, it’s clear — we can’t sit on the sidelines and expect that the change we want will magically arrive. If we show up in force for our schools over the next year, we can take full advantage of the opportunities to create real, positive change for our students.

Legislators Agreed Overwhelmingly was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

We’re Fighting for Safer Schools

April 19, 2018 - 2:35pm
“Our students are looking to us to take care of them. And they have every right to expect that we will.”

We believe the preliminary Kirwan Commission recommendations are promising and will better support the social-emotional learning and health of our students. Here’s why:

· They provide the wrap-around services and mental health staffing we need in schools that serve communities with high concentrations of poverty where students are more likely to have experienced trauma. We hope this extends to the community school model that is so successful in Baltimore City.

· They ensure the kind of free and affordable high-quality pre-K programs shown to close the early achievement gaps that we know often persist throughout a child’s education and recommend expansion of Judy Centers and high-quality child care.

An educator at MSEA’s march to Fix the Fund on March 19

· They give struggling learners and students with disabilities the kind of support that will help them succeed by increasing the funding weight for students who receive special education services.

· They expand career pathways for high school students by making career and technology education available for all 11th and 12th graders, opening the doors for students to discover the skills and passions that can make school an engaging, motivating place for all.

We don’t just need more counselors, psychologists, and teachers — we need more support staff who can be there for students too. We’re fighting for the commission to recognize the need for an ESP living wage to recruit and retain support professionals who can afford to stay on the job serving students and schools and whose presence is so often stabilizing and reassuring.

“Support employees are the glue that holds our schools together,” said Weller. “We need them now more than ever.”

The Unthinkable Happened…Again

We believe students deserve — and communities should demand — a Maryland promise that delivers safe schools. “It comes down to staffing levels. It comes down to school safety measures and expanding social-emotional learning and support for our students,” said Weller. “And it comes down to increasing funding for our schools based on the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission so we can make it all happen.

“Our students are looking to us to take care of them. And they have every right to expect that we will.”

We’re Fighting for Safer Schools was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Unthinkable Happened…Again

April 19, 2018 - 2:34pm
We believe students deserve — and communities should demand — a Maryland promise that delivers safe schools.A sign at MSEA’s march to Fix the Fund on March 19, 2018.

The unthinkable has happened again and again and again. The hopeful notion we all still hold on to that “it won’t happen here” was shattered when Great Mills High School, not far from where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay, became the latest site of a school shooting on March 20. It was just a little more than a month after the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“You never know where it’s going to happen. You never know. It can happen anywhere, but this little town right here, it’s going to hurt. We’re all real close,” Great Mills parent Jamie Quade told WBAL-TV.

“We are heartbroken that gun violence in schools has now touched our community,” said Jill Morris, president of the Education Association of St. Mary’s County, shortly after the shooting.

Jill Morris, president of the Education Association of St. Mary’s County, at MSEA’s March to Fix the Fund.

“Simply put, it is devastating that for the students of Great Mills, their memories of school will now include this traumatic day.

“We are resolved to provide all the support and comfort we can to our colleagues and neighbors in the Great Mills community while we work together towards a day when no school community ever has to experience this type of tragedy.”

MSEA President Betty Weller issued a statement in support of the Great Mills school community: “It is far past time for gun violence in our schools to end. Students and educators deserve days filled with learning and discovery, not with fear and lockdowns.

“We are grateful to the heroic school employees and first responders who protected students, and stand ready as a union family to support the educators, students, and community of Great Mills.”

We’re Fighting for Safer Schools

While the 2018 General Assembly has focused on short-term fixes to address school security, we are working to get those right as we also fight for strong, long-term recommendations from the Kirwan Commission that will lead to safer schools.

“We want the staffing and programs that give every student support and opportunity, and a place to excel no matter what their talent,” said MSEA President Betty Weller.

MSEA is working hard for the school funding that will help address and mitigate the student traumas that so often go unacknowledged and untreated. That means more school counselors, smaller class sizes, more student supports, and more educators trained in restorative practices.

Since the recession, we’ve seen too many school systems go in the opposite direction. As student enrollment has grown, staffing ratios haven’t kept up.School counselors and psychologists juggle caseloads two and three times the industry-recommended standards. Students aren’t getting the individual attention and support that they need. That’s not just shortchanging our students, it’s punishing them.

The Unthinkable Happened…Again was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Your Rights as an Educator-Activist

April 19, 2018 - 2:33pm
A word from the legal team about taking a stand.iStock Photo

Educator activism — locally and across the country — is building for safer schools, increased funding, better pay and support for educators, and improved professional respect. MSEA encourages activism, but we also want members to protect themselves, their jobs, and their local associations by understanding the differences between types of actions and their effects.

Let’s look first at what is protected under the First Amendment. We encourage marches and rallies, signed petitions, letters, statements of support on social media, and lobbying of state and local elected officials. This type of off-the-clock political and community action is protected. When educators act as citizens speaking about matters of public concern, the First Amendment has your back so long as the activities do not disrupt the workplace.

What’s Not Protected?

Activities like walkouts and strikes or the endorsement of, or participation in, student walkouts or similar activities. Educators simply don’t have the legal right under the First Amendment (or state law) to support their students or to protest their own working conditions. Leading or assisting in such walkouts will result in discipline and even termination.

Low pay isn't the only reason teachers are going on strike. Maryland, pay attention.

Your local association can also be penalized for supporting those actions. State law prohibits an employee organization (your local association) from calling or directing a strike.

A local association’s endorsement or support of an educator walkout means a mandatory two-year cancellation of its designation as exclusive representative which eliminates contract negotiations between the local and the board of education and the existing negotiated contract between employees and the board. The school district will also stop making payroll deductions for local association dues for one year after the violation, further harming the local’s ability to advocate for — and support — its members.

Need more information? Contact your local UniServ director.

Your Rights as an Educator-Activist was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

After Four Years, Hogan’s (Short)Change Maryland Plan Goes Nowhere

April 13, 2018 - 1:22pm
Hogan’s education privatization agenda fails to gain tractionHogan tried to advance the Betsy DeVos agenda of cutting public school funding and prioritizing private and charter schools, but found little success in his four legislative sessions as Maryland governor. (Credit: USDE)

On Monday night, as the clock struck midnight, the Maryland General Assembly celebrated Sine Die on their fourth and final session of the 2015–2018 term. Gov. Hogan — having yet again testified or negotiated on zero bills in the 90-day session — did his best to spin the session as productive and bipartisan due to his leadership.

And for the most part, he fooled the press. The Baltimore Sun wrote an editorial titled, “Larry Hogan: Closet Democrat?

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Contrasting Annapolis with Washington, Gov. Hogan trumpets Maryland's bipartisanship. But, how deep does it really go? https://t.co/QLDl9Rf3pF

 — @baltimoresun

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They then declared Gov. Hogan a winner, writing, “Gov. Larry Hogan avoided damaging fights with the legislature and can credibly claim a record of accomplishment this year on health care, economic development, gun control and more as he heads into his re-election bid.” Maryland Matters wrote something similar.

While Hogan may take credit for not stopping the work of Democratic leadership in the General Assembly, little of his own agenda passed, especially on the most important issue for 2018 voters: education.

SB301, Hogan’s bill to increase the emphasis on standardized testing in school ratings, and reduce the focus on attendance rates, school safety and climate, and access to a well-rounded curriculum, was voted down 7–4 in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Hogan’s attempt to increase test prep and further disrupt school during PARCC testing is voted down in committee.

HB355, Hogan’s legislation to create an “investigator general” to publicly shame public schools — and answer directly to the governor’s political appointees while doing it — never got a vote in either House or Senate committees.

And faced with pressure about his A- NRA rating in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, Gov. Hogan made a desperate pitch to support the pro-public education Fix the Fund Act, but with $125 million going to metal detectors, bullet-proof doors and windows, and armed school resource officers — measures that do more to make schools feel like prisons than actually make them safer.

Want to give Md. kids a future? Fund their educations before metal detectors

But his proposal disappeared as quickly as it came, with the legislature passing its own bipartisan school safety bill after working through the tough details that lawmaking requires — something Hogan has never made time for.

“His school measures do nothing practical to allay fears; they stoke them. They exploit the horror we feel each time a child is murdered in this way — the what ifs we run through — so he can appear the hero willing to take action. But if he really wants to save Maryland’s children and ensure their future, he needs to focus on funding their educations first.” — Tricia Bishop, Baltimore Sun editor

Hogan also proposed cutting $17.7 million from schools in his Budget Financing and Reconciliation Act, which if adopted would have resulted in $88.9 million in cuts over five years. The programs he wanted to cut?

  1. After-school and summer programs in districts with a majority of students coming from low-income backgrounds;
  2. College-readiness scholarships for low-income public school students;
  3. The Teacher Induction, Retention, and Advancement Pilot Program, aimed at retaining excellent teachers in the state; and
  4. Stipends to help cover the cost for teachers to receive National Board Certification.

Hogan budget proposal cuts school programs

Hogan’s cuts didn’t stick. The legislature fully restored funding for the after-school and summer programs and the National Board Certification stipends. They also added back $4.7 million of the $5 million cut from college-readiness scholarships. And the teacher retention program got back $3 million of the $5 million taken away in Hogan’s budget.

But Hogan didn’t just try to cut funding for programs; he also tried to reduce money to rebuild Maryland’s crumbling and overcrowded public school buildings. When the legislature passed a bill raising the floor for annual school construction funding from $250 million to $400 million, Hogan vetoed the bill because it took away his ability to politicize the funding allocation process. Fortunately, the legislature quickly overrode the governor’s self-serving veto, making small but important progress in eliminating its $4 billion backlog of school facilities projects.

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The Governor just vetoed a bill committing the state to $400 million in school construction funding. Sad that he vetoed a good bill because of one provision he objected to.

 — @EricLuedtke

function notifyResize(height) {height = height ? height : document.documentElement.offsetHeight; var resized = false; if (window.donkey && donkey.resize) {donkey.resize(height); resized = true;}if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var obj = {iframe: window.frameElement, height: height}; parent._resizeIframe(obj); resized = true;}if (window.location && window.location.hash === "#amp=1" && window.parent && window.parent.postMessage) {window.parent.postMessage({sentinel: "amp", type: "embed-size", height: height}, "*");}if (window.webkit && window.webkit.messageHandlers && window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize) {window.webkit.messageHandlers.resize.postMessage(height); resized = true;}return resized;}twttr.events.bind('rendered', function (event) {notifyResize();}); twttr.events.bind('resize', function (event) {notifyResize();});if (parent && parent._resizeIframe) {var maxWidth = parseInt(window.frameElement.getAttribute("width")); if ( 500 < maxWidth) {window.frameElement.setAttribute("width", "500");}}Hogan’s Education Legacy: Legislative Failure

Gov. Hogan, at this point, is used to having his education privatization agenda stopped in its tracks. This session was nothing new. Here’s a rundown of how his education privatization agenda got stalled in his first three years:

2015Funding Cuts: Hogan proposed $144 million in cuts to Maryland public schools in his first budget, including $64 million by freezing and capping the inflation factor in Maryland’s funding formula which ensures that schools get more funding as the cost of providing education goes up. If his formula changes had been approved by the legislature, hundreds of millions of funding would have been cut throughout Hogan’s years as governor. But the legislature restored the $64 million for FY2016 and prevented those cuts from carrying over into future years.Charter Schools: His bill to water down quality and accountability standards for charter schools — including allowing non-certified teachers to work in charter schools — was gutted and amended to make Maryland’s strongest charter school law in the nation even stronger.Tax Credit Vouchers: Hogan also proposed a typical Republican education proposal to give wealthy individuals and corporations tax credits for making contributions to organizations that in turn grant vouchers to private schools. The $15 million neo-voucher scheme didn’t fool anyone and failed to gain approval in the House and Senate.2016Funding Cuts: In total, $132 million of Hogan’s 2015 education cuts were reversed in a bipartisan budget. But later that summer, the governor withheld $68 million and lied about it going to educator pensions (it didn’t).

GOP Governor's Plan To Shift Funds From Schools To Pension Turns Out To Be Illegal

That funding is called the Geographic Cost of Education Index, designed to ensure that school districts in higher cost-of-living areas get more funding so they can, you know, afford larger expenses. So the legislature decided in 2015 to mandate that the governor fully fund GCEI in all budgets moving forward, and he was forced to include that funding in his 2016 budget and each budget since — which amounted to $418 million over three years.Tax Credit Vouchers: Hogan once again proposed legislation to create a tax credit voucher program for private schools, but it failed to move through the General Assembly.2017School Accountability: When Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, it tasked each state with crafting its own school accountability system — rating school success on a series of indicators and then creating a process to improve low-performing schools. Gov. Hogan asked his appointed State Board to consider rating schools on an A-F scale, base those scores almost entirely on test scores, and then take over failing schools and hand them over to private operators (private schools, charter schools, and private management companies).

Maryland state school board considering vouchers, charters for failing schools

So the legislature intervened. The General Assembly worked with educators, parents, and civil rights groups to craft the Protect Our Schools Act, legislation that ensured test scores were accompanied by other important metrics — like attendance rates, stakeholder surveys, and access to well-rounded courses and curriculum — in determining school success. It also ensured that parents and educators in their communities had the power to turn around struggling schools instead of having them handed over to the state, and prohibited the privatization of school operations.

Busch, teachers union vow to fight privatization of public schools

After the legislation received bipartisan support in the House Ways and Means Committee, Gov. Hogan called a press conference and declared his opposition to the bill. Here was a perfect chance for Hogan to work with Democrats on a plan to improve school performance, but he turned it into political theatre.Four Republican delegates voted for the Protect Our Schools Act before Gov. Hogan made it a partisan issue.The General Assembly went on to pass the legislation with Democratic votes. Gov. Hogan then vetoed the bill at a very low-performing charter school in Baltimore City, but the legislature overrode the action before the session ended and it became law. The State Board of Education went on to submit an ESSA implementation plan to the U.S. Department of Education within the requirements of the new state law, and despite Hogan declining to sign that plan, the federal government approved it anyway.Charter Schools: After failing to advance his efforts to lower standards for charter schools in 2015, Gov. Hogan introduced new legislation in 2017 to create an “independent” authorizing board to sidestep the local board of education process for approving new schools. The House Ways and Means Committee, knowing that such a system has led to waste and fraud of taxpayer dollars in other states, voted it down 15–8.Hogan‘s Three Legislative “Wins” on Education

While the governor’s Shortchange Maryland education agenda has mostly stalled, he does have three “wins” that have slowed academic progress for public school students:

  1. Of his $206 million of proposed education cuts, Gov. Hogan has successfully prevented $98 million from going to public schools during his time as governor. Though, if his initial $64 million cut to the Thornton Funding Formula had been approved by the legislature, it would have cost our schools hundreds of millions of additional dollars throughout his four year term.
  2. Gov. Hogan has one accomplishment that Betsy DeVos supports: starting the state’s private school voucher program, known now as BOOST. The governor won $5 million for the program during negotiations with the legislature in his second budget, $5.5 million in his third, and now $7 million in his fourth budget. That means, of the $98 million taken from public schools by Gov. Hogan’s budget cuts, almost one-fifth of it has gone to private schools.
  3. After campaigning to end budget gimmicks and the raiding of special reserve funds, Gov. Hogan continued the practice of using Education Trust Fund dollars — much of the revenue Maryland raises from casino gaming — to direct general funds away from public schools. In fact, the governor used $1.4 billion dollars in the Education Trust Fund to free up general funds for non-education purposes in his four budget proposals. That’s a large reason why Maryland public schools are underfunded by $2.9 billion every year.

Gov. Hogan might not be seen as extreme in today’s Republican Party. But if he had gotten his way as governor for the last four years — and if not for leaders in the General Assembly — our schools would have lost hundreds of millions of dollars, tens of millions would have been sent to private schools, “failing schools” would have been taken over by the state and handed over to private management companies, standardized testing would have been emphasized even more than it is today, and charter schools would have their own authorizing boards and would be able to employ uncertified teachers. That’s his real record — not an exaggerated advertisement.

As it is, he still blocked almost $100 million for public schools and sent a good chunk to subsidize expensive private schools. Under Hogan’s watch, Maryland’s national ranking has dropped 16 spots for 8th grade reading achievement and 11 spots for 8th grade math.

The bottom line is: If Maryland is going to return to the top of education rankings, and more importantly, offer an equal opportunity at success for all students — no matter their neighborhood, race, or family wealth — we need a governor with a vision for how to improve our public schools and the political will to fully fund a plan to get it done.

We can no longer afford to play defense against an anti-public education governor when the average school is annually underfunded by $2 million. We need a champion.

After Four Years, Hogan’s (Short)Change Maryland Plan Goes Nowhere was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Students, Educators, and Schools are Big Winners in the 2018 Legislative Session

April 10, 2018 - 9:59am
And other end of session updates in MSEA’s Up the StreetAt midnight, the balloons and confetti dropped in the House chamber and the 438th General Assembly officially adjourned Sine Die.SINE DIE IN ANNAPOLIS

As the clock struck midnight and the General Assembly wrapped up its 438th legislative session, educators can reflect on a very successful 90 days. Of the 3,127 pieces of legislation introduced this year, MSEA was tracking 477 of them as overlapping with our expansive legislative agenda. Ultimately, we testified for or against nearly 200 pieces of legislation. And more often than not, we won!

We fought and won to Fix the Fund! We fought and won to make policy and funding down payments on the future work of the Kirwan Commission. We fought and won to improve the voice of educators — on the State Board of Education and in their local bargaining units. We fought in coalitions to win an expansion of voting rights and to protect earned sick leave. This Sine Die report highlights the good news and successes won with the support of great champions in the legislature and because of the incredible advocacy by members and coalition partners alike.

This 2018 Priorities Tracker document provides information on the final status of priority bills we were working and watching throughout the last 90 days.

BIG WINSFix the Fund

MSEA’s top priority in 2018 was to pass Fix the Fund Act, sending a constitutional amendment to general election voters in the fall to guarantee that any revenue raised into the Education Trust Fund through casino gaming must be directly sent to schools above and beyond funding through the state’s General Fund. After more than 1,000 educators, students, parents, and public education advocates rallied and marched in Annapolis in mid-March, the Senate passed the legislation 47–0 and the House concurred 130–2. That means voters have a chance to approve a phased-in $500 million increase in funding for Maryland pre-K-12 education — a huge first step to eliminating the $2.9 billion funding shortage currently facing our schools.

We now move to the next phase of our Maryland Promise campaign:

1. Pass Fix the Fund Act ✓

2. Secure bold Kirwan Commission recommendations for a new state funding formula

3. Pass Fix the Fund at the ballot and elect pro-public education candidates — from governor to school board — in the 2018 General Election

4. Pass the Kirwan Commission recommendations in the 2019 General Assembly session, funded in part by Fix the Fund’s $500 million increase in state education aid, including a new Maryland Promise school funding formula

For more information on what happens now, watch our video here. And to sign up to stay involved in the campaign, you can sign up here.

https://medium.com/media/6571cd89f7daf9d87bdb79d8fe7561b5/hrefBuilding a Stronger Bridge to the Kirwan Commission

When the legislative session started, most of the 188 legislators knew who Dr. Brit Kirwan was but couldn’t tell you the work of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, aka the Kirwan Commission. Now, the work of the Commission is better understood and the General Assembly took some significant steps to prepare the state from both a policy and fiscal standpoint to support the ultimate recommendations of the Commission.

HB 1415 moved some less costly consensus recommendations from the Kirwan Commission’s work, including pre-K expansion, teacher recruitment programs, access to more after-school and summer programs, creating a career and technology education workgroup, and an early literacy pilot program. In total, the bill allocates an additional $7 million to schools in FY2019 and grows to $37 million by FY2022. But this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the funding increases our schools should see when a new funding formula is adopted next year.

That’s why the legislature also reserved $200 million of funding that they could have spent this year to save up for the first year of implementation of the Kirwan Commission recommendations. That funding is expected to be on top of the $125 million of first-year Fix the Fund resources that will go to our schools in FY2020.

School Funding Increases

Protecting full funding for public schools — as required by state law — is certainly a big win with Gov. Hogan’s record of proposing cuts to public education. And Hogan’s FY19 budget proposal was similar to previous years when he sought cuts in education programs for teacher induction programs, afterschool programs, and stipends for national board certification. Luckily, the General Assembly restored most of those cuts and with the creation of the Kirwan Fund, set aside even more money for next year.

Using his power to propose changes in mandatory spending through the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (known as the BFRA), his plan would have cut $17.1 million in FY2019 and $88.9 million over the next five years if adopted.

· Quality teacher recruitment and retention grants: $5 million cut in FY2019, $20 million cut in FY2020–2023

· National Board Certification Teacher stipends: $2.1 million cut in FY2019, $16.8 million cut in FY2020–2023

· After-school and summer programs: $5 million cut in FY2019, $15 million cut in FY2020–2021

· College readiness scholarships for low-income students: $5 million cut in FY2019, $20 million cut in FY2020–2023

But the legislature blocked the vast majority of these cuts, fully restoring funding for National Board Certification Teacher stipends and after-school and summer programs, putting back $4.7 of the $5 million cut from scholarships for low-income students, and restoring $3 of $5 million for teacher recruitment and retention grants.

In addition to defending the formula and restoring program cuts, the General Assembly passed the 21st Century School Facilities Act, notwithstanding the unsuccessful veto by Gov. Hogan, that will set a new funding floor of $400 million per year in state capital funding for school construction projects. The previous floor was set over ten years ago at $250 million per year. This substantial increase will help to address the billions of dollars in backlogged projects. The legislation also included the creation of an additional capital funding program to add $10 million in grant funds for local school districts to make school safety improvements.

In response to freezing classrooms, moldy buildings, and facilities without air conditioning, the General Assembly also passed SB 611, mandating that the governor allocate an additional $30 million in FY2020 and FY2021 for a new Healthy School Facilities Fund to meet urgent building maintenance needs.

Improving Educator Voice

The Maryland State Board of Education makes policy and regulatory decisions that directly impact the teaching profession and the learning standards for students. In his three-plus years in office, Gov. Hogan has remade the State Board into a group of private school and charter school ideologues who want more and more standardized testing from pre-K through high school. A direct path to empowering the teaching profession is by adding dedicated seats to the State Board of Education specifically for teachers — and that’s exactly what the General Assembly did. SB 739 passed on the last day of session with bipartisan support and will add a total of three new seats to the 12-member State Board.

One seat will be for a primary school teacher. One more seat will be for a secondary school teacher. The governor will appoint those two seats from a list of teachers generated jointly by MSEA and the Baltimore Teachers Union (BTU). The third dedicated seat is for a parent of a public school student. Maryland PTA will provide a list of nominees to the governor who will pick one for this additional dedicated voice.

Educator voice was also enhanced with the passage of HB 811, guaranteeing the union access to new employees. As public sector unions are under attack nationally, it is important to take steps against the right-to-work agenda that would weaken the voice of educators at the bargaining table. This legislation was passed with super-majority support. Gov. Hogan refused to sign the bill, but it became law without his signature and will take effect on July 1.

Senate Bill 639 also provides teachers with a stronger voice in creating a more level playing field if a teacher faces suspension or termination from the job. Right now, the county board of education can select a hearing officer of their choosing in the event a hearing is requested. This bill allows teachers to have the same rights that education support professionals have largely already bargained, giving them the option of selecting an arbitrator with the board of education. This will allow a faster and fairer due process that ensures teachers have protection when falsely accused of misconduct. Continuing his political vendetta against teachers, Gov. Hogan vetoed the bill. But the legislature swiftly overrode his unsuccessful action.

Expansion of Voting Rights

MSEA joined in coalition with Common Cause Maryland and other voting rights partners to make registering and voting in Maryland easier, including allowing for Election Day registration and automatic voter registration. A change to allow new voters to register and vote on Election Day requires a change to the Maryland Constitution. So while HB 532 has passed both the House and Senate, it creates a Constitutional Amendment that will be on the November ballot for Maryland voters to decide. Maryland already allows registering and voting on the same day during early voting, but if this amendment passes, Maryland will join more than a dozen other states that allow for same day Election Day registration and voting.

Senate Bill 1048 is the Secure and Accessible Registration Act, which became law without the governor’s signature last week. This legislation allows Maryland residents to register to vote when they deal with certain state agencies, including the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, local social service agencies, and the Maryland Transit Administration’s mobility office. The bill changes the current “opt-in” process of registering to vote to an “opt-out” system and is designed to help make it easier for more Marylanders to register and be able to vote in future elections. Neither this bill nor HB 532 will impact who can register and vote in the 2018 election, but can be a great assistance to improve access to voting in 2020 and beyond.

Defending Earned Sick Leave

A top priority for the start of session was to secure the legislative victory earned in 2017 to provide earned sick leave benefits for Maryland’s working families. Gov. Hogan vetoed the sick leave bill last year, and it was a top order of business in the first week of session when both the House and Senate voted to override the veto and allow for qualifying workers to start accruing sick leave benefits just 30 days later. This was a priority issue for the Working Families Coalition for the last five years, and we were proud to be a part of the effort every step of the way.

A WINNING DEFENSE

Sometimes the best offense is a good defense, and every year we have to win by working to defeat bad bills. That was true during the 2018 session when we worked to amend or oppose several bills, including:

Defend Maryland’s Approved ESSA Plan and 2017 Efforts to Pass the Protect Our Schools Act

In January, the U.S. Department of Education approved Maryland’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. That plan was developed after nearly two years of receiving stakeholder input and after the General Assembly weighed in with the passage of the Protect Our Schools Act last year. Thanks to the General Assembly, Maryland is implementing a far smarter, more balanced school accountability system than we had under No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Disappointingly, Gov. Hogan introduced SB 301/ HB 351, which sought to upend Maryland’s plan, reopen the state’s school accountability system, and double-down on the elements of NCLB that rate schools almost exclusively on standardized test scores. The legislation did nothing to move away from the test and punish failures of NCLB. That’s why it was an easy call for the General Assembly to reject the governor’s ill-conceived proposal.

Keep Additional Guns Out of Schools

While the start of session did not foresee a slew of school safety bills, after the events of gun violence in Parkland, Florida and Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, that is what we got. Some of the ideas were very good and thoughtful and incorporated in an omnibus school safety bill. Other ideas were dangerous and misguided. MSEA helped to defeat specific proposals to arm school employees (HB 760) and to mandate armed resource officers in every school (SB 1264).

Stop “Right to Work” Legislation

Like clockwork, every legislative session, legislators hostile to workers and their unions introduce legislation to compromise collective bargaining. They misleadingly call it “right to work.” This year, it was introduced as HB 264. Several states have shifted to “right to work” status in the last eight years, and wages in those states have dropped precipitously as corporate earnings increased. The proposal is a race to the bottom that Maryland has rightly rejected year after year. And, luckily, Maryland rejected it again this year.

NEW BUSINESS ITEMS DURING THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION

During the Fall 2017 MSEA Representative Assembly, there were several legislative directives adopted in the form of new business items on issues that have not previously been addressed in this update, including:

NBI 17–04: Create a Coalition to Address the Impact of Student Trauma in the Learning Environment

While we failed to pass HB 1601 that was introduced to create a pilot program to expand trauma-informed instruction, we did make great progress in building a coalition and advancing the discussion on this topic. The House unanimously passed a version of the bill that required guidelines on trauma-informed instruction to be created. But, the bill was so watered-down that the Senate did not see value in passing it. All parties agree that the ultimate goal is to factor trauma-informed instruction in an updated state funding formula, and that will be our focus in the interim.

NBI 17–06: Develop Guidelines for Appropriate Law Enforcement Interactions in Public Schools

While not initially a legislative matter, MSEA was an active participant in the bipartisan and bicameral effort to develop an omnibus school safety bill, SB 1265, the Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018. This legislation passed and includes the creation of a new School Safety Advisory Board that will have a representative jointly appointed by MSEA and BTU to develop guidelines on a myriad of issues, including the role of law enforcement in public schools. We supported specific

amendments to ensure training on diversity awareness with specific attention to racial and ethnic disparities. We also supported an amendment to require an annual report from every school district about arrests and use of force involving resource officers and students in school.

NBI 17–14: Override the Veto of “Ban the Box”

MSEA joined the coalition led by the Jobs Opportunity Task Force to override the veto of Ban the Box legislation from 2017. Also during the first week of session, the House and Senate voted to override Gov. Hogan’s opposition to the law that prohibits institutions of higher education from using information about the criminal history of applicants on admission applications. The ban on such practices took effect as of February this year.

NBI 17–18: Paid Child Rearing and Family Sick Leave

We fell short in realizing this NBI from a legislative standpoint for all Marylanders, but we were encouraged to see progress with the passage of SB 859 and the allowance of new parental leave provisions for state employees.

NBI 17–25: Support Recommendations on Dyslexia Education

The House and Senate both passed versions of HB 910 that adopted some of the provisions of the Governor’s Task Force on the Implementation of a Dyslexia Education Program. As the session rushed to midnight, a conference committee met and made progress on this issue without the prescriptive screenings from the original bill. That report was adopted in the House of Delegates, but failed to be voted in the Senate. That means the bill died this session. Efforts will continue on this issue in the interim and we will work with the Decoding Dyslexia coalition to develop a game plan for the path forward that works for students, families, and educators.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS — AN EYE TOWARDS THE 2019 SESSIONEliminating the BOOST Private School Voucher Program

One disappointing aspect of the General Assembly session is the continuation of Maryland’s private school voucher program. Gov. Hogan’s proposal to increase funding for the privatization scheme did get cut by $2 million, but that still left $7 million for the taxpayer funded program that subsidizes expensive private school tuition at the expense of students in public schools.

The legislature was also unable to pass legislation that would prohibit private schools that receive public funding from discriminating against students or employees on a basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability (HB 1565/SB 1060). The fact that private operators objected to this bill is just more evidence that it’s inappropriate for public money to flow to these unaccountable schools. Phasing out and outright ending the failed and discriminatory voucher program will be a priority for 2019.

Living Wage for Education Support Professionals

MSEA worked with two former educators in the General Assembly to introduce legislation requiring all school staff to earn a living wage for their work in public schools. HB 1061 would have raised wages for more than 24,000 education support professionals across the state by establishing wage floors at $31,500 and $36,000 a year depending on cost-of-living. From there, ESP local associations could still bargain above those minimums. However, because of how far behind these wages have fallen, the cost of implementing fair pay for all school staff is more than $200 million a year, and the legislature decided to wait until the Kirwan Commission recommends its comprehensive school funding plan before taking action. MSEA will continue to urge the Kirwan Commission to include ESP living wages in its recommendations with the newfound momentum built this session during bill hearings and the Fix the Fund march.

Fight for $15 Minimum Wage

Despite widespread public support for raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, the legislature could not agree on a plan to pass the Fight for $15 legislation this year. With some hourly-paid educators making below $15, MSEA testified in support of SB 543 and will continue to support the larger coalition as it pushes for income equality and a more even playing field in our state economy.

Dream Act Expansion

The Dream Act expansion efforts of 2018 (HB 1536/SB 546) passed the House and moved out of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee late on Sine Die. It didn’t have enough time to clear hurdles in the final moments of session, which is unfortunate because this was a sensible expansion of efforts to provide new access to higher education opportunities for Dreamers — the very students under attack by President Trump. Had the bill passed, undocumented immigrant students would have been able to attend public four-year universities without having to attend community college first. With the uncertainly of DACA at the federal level, this was a missed opportunity this session but will likely be an important issue and debate for next year as well.

Prince George’s School Board Governance

The Prince George’s County House Delegation passed HB 186, but the bill never gained traction in the Senate delegation and out of the Senate committee. The House-passed bill didn’t go far enough to address the structural problems with the county’s hybrid school board. The goal was to pass a bill that changed the school board governance structure to one that empowers the members of the local board, community leaders, and education stakeholders. PGCEA argued that the local board must be empowered to govern the school system and all of its employees, including the superintendent of schools. The 2018 election will bring a new county executive and possibly new elected and appointed members to the local board that will change the dynamics of this debate in the future.

ACTIVISM GETS RESULTSEducator Engagement Drives Successful Agenda

From lobby nights nearly every week of session, to emails and phone calls to legislators, and to the march on Annapolis to Fix the Fund, educators’ voices were heard in the halls of Annapolis. Education support professionals offered some of the most compelling testimony of the session in our fight to create a living wage requirement. President Weller represented members well when testifying on our priorities and as an effective coalition partner when testifying alongside Casa de Maryland with the Dream Act, Maryland PTA with the bill to add teachers and a parent to the State Board of Education, and in support of a shared agenda with Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence to oppose efforts to arm school employees. Thank you to everyone who contacted their legislators and helped advance our aggressive agenda this session. Your advocacy is the most important part of our lobbying efforts and we could not have won the important victories of this session without you.

And while the efforts in 2018 are commendable, as noted above, the work on Campaign 2018 and into the next legislative session will be even more important. The stakes couldn’t be higher. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve our state aid for education funding formula that would allow us to make progress to increase pay, improve staffing ratios, and tackle poverty in our schools. Please sign up to join us and help us win!

Students, Educators, and Schools are Big Winners in the 2018 Legislative Session was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

General Assembly Passes Fix the Fund Act

April 7, 2018 - 2:24pm
But it’s not law yet — it still has to pass on the 2018 ballot(Photo © Stephen Cherry)

Maryland is one step closer to keeping its original promise to put casino gaming revenue toward funding increases for public education. On Friday, the Maryland House of Delegates passed the Fix the Fund Act 130–2, two weeks after the Senate unanimously approved the bill as more than a thousand educators marched in Annapolis.

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Ordinarily, a bill like this would go to the governor’s desk for signature into law. But the Fix the Fund Act isn’t legislation — it’s a constitutional amendment — meaning the bill doesn’t go to the governor.

It goes to the voters.

That’s because voters are the only ones who can stop future governors from taking the same budget actions as Gov. O’Malley and Gov. Hogan to re-direct $1.9 billion in Education Trust Fund money away from public schools.

But it’s important to take a step back and remember why Fixing the Fund is such a huge deal for Maryland schools today. According to a state-commissioned study, the average school in Maryland is underfunded by $2 million every single year. That’s funding for more competitive teacher salaries, smaller class sizes, access to early childhood learning, more mental health professionals, living wages for support professionals, career and technology training, and other key elements to quality education that, right now, not all students receive.

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Passing the Fix the Fund Act is just the first step in a four-step process to getting our students the resources they need and deserve:

  1. January-April 2018: Pass the Fix the Fund Act through the General Assembly ✓
  2. April-October 2018: Secure bold Kirwan Commission recommendations for a new state funding formula
  3. November 2018: Pass Fix the Fund at the ballot and elect pro-public education candidates — from governor to school board — in the 2018 General Election
  4. January-April 2019: Pass the Kirwan Commission recommendations in the 2019 General Assembly session, funded in part by Fix the Fund’s $500 million increase in state education aid
Next Step: Kirwan Commission Recommendations

The Kirwan Commission has been around for a while now. First created in the 2016 General Assembly session, the 25-member group has been slowly studying best educational strategies from around the world and working on an education plan that would bring some of those best practices into Maryland schools.

Months after holding several public listening sessions around the state, the Commission released preliminary policy recommendations in January. There were important victories in that initial report, including:

  • A 32% increase in average teacher pay over five years
  • Expanding the number of high-poverty schools using the community school model
  • Affordable access to public pre-K for all four-year-olds and free access for low-income three-year-olds
  • Universal, voluntary access to career and technology education for all 11th and 12th grade students
  • Industry-standard staffing ratios for school counselors, psychologists, and social workers
During a listening session in October, educators urge Kirwan Commission to adopt bold school funding plan.

Now, the Commission will resume their work to cost out the recommendations they issued and craft a new education funding formula to invest in those policy ideas. It’s important for educators to be even more engaged in the Commission’s work over the summer to make sure:

  1. Good recommendations from the preliminary report make it into the final report;
  2. Vital policies that were left out in January, like living wages for ESPs, are also included in the final report; and
  3. The current underfunding of our schools is comprehensively addressed by a new state school funding formula.

That agenda is not going to be easy to win. It’s not a slam dunk that the Fix the Fund Act will pass as a constitutional amendment. And it might not matter if we don’t have a governor in office who has the political will to fund the school resources our kids deserve instead of a governor who calls educators “union thugs” for opposing funding cuts. There’s a lot of work ahead of us in 2018 and 2019.

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But we cleared the first hurdle. Fix the Fund will be on the ballot. And it’s worth celebrating our activism to this point— including an incredible moment as we marched around the State House two Mondays ago —before taking a deep breath and moving forward to the next step.

General Assembly Passes Fix the Fund Act was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Fix the Fund Update and Overriding Vetoes

April 6, 2018 - 3:55pm
And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the StreetMSEA President Betty Weller, MSEA Vice President (and President-Elect) Cheryl Bost, and former MSEA (then MSTA) President Pat Foerster lead the march at MSEA’s March to Fix the Fund. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)THIS WEEK IN ANNAPOLISFix the Fund Constitutional Amendment on Third Reading for Final Passage

The House of Delegates is one vote away from following the actions of the State Senate and approving Senate Bill 1122, the Fix the Fund Constitutional Amendment to establish a lockbox on the Education Trust Fund. That vote is expected to take place as early as tonight. If passed, the issue will then go to the voters on the November ballot. If approved at the ballot box, the Fix the Fund initiative will guarantee that gaming revenue is supplemental funding to the current state aid for public education, and once fully phased in will add at least $500 million in new state funding for public schools. This new funding is the first step in addressing the unmet needs in our schools that will not be fully resolved until the state adopts a new funding formula. That formula must address the current unmet needs in our schools and provide new resources to increase educator pay, improve staffing ratios, address poverty, and implement other recommendations of the Kirwan Commission.

Overriding Gov. Hogan’s Vetoes

Last week, the General Assembly presented a number of bills to Gov. Hogan with enough time left in session that if the governor decided to veto the bill, the General Assembly could take action to override before adjourning. The presented bills included MSEA priorities related to access to new educators and all educators in our bargaining units (HB 811), teacher arbitration rights (SB 639), new funding for school construction and school safety (HB 1783), and legislation to expand voting rights (SB 1048). Gov. Hogan decided to let the access to new employees and the automatic voter registration bills become law without his signature. Unfortunately, he vetoed the school construction and school safety measure as well as the teacher arbitration bill.

In short order, however, both the House and Senate took up the bills and passed them again, notwithstanding the governor’s veto. The overrides allow the legislation to become law upon their designated effective dates. That is June 1, 2018 for the 21st Century School Facilities Act and October 1, 2018 for the Public School Personnel — Disciplinary Hearing Procedures legislation.

School Safety Measure Advances in the Senate

From six bills comes one — an omnibus bill titled the Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018 (SB 1265). A bipartisan and bicameral workgroup of legislators worked together to address issues related to the structure of the Center for School Safety, the development and training of school assessment teams, training and coordination with school safety coordinators (including school resource officers and local law enforcement), school safety emergency plans, and expansion of mental health and wraparound services. The bill also accounts for $40 million in operating and capital funds that are available based on the enactment of the FY19 budget and contingent on passage of some other legislation and action from the governor to release fenced-off funding. Of that, $10 million are school safety grants that can be distributed to support one-time expenses related to trainings, assessments of existing school safety staff and practices, mental health services, and delivery of school-based behavioral health.

The other bills related to mandatory school resource officers and hardening of schools will not be acted on this year. MSEA opposed efforts that would convert schools to what would feel more like prisons. And while school safety is of paramount concern, it is far more important to expand the presence of student support staff, including counselors, psychologists, and social workers, than it is to beef up the presence of law enforcement on every school campus in the state. The compromise bill is expected to be taken up in the House this weekend and resolution reached before midnight on Monday. The Department of Legislative Services created this summary and timeline document to explain the omnibus bill.

NEWS AND NOTESTax Cut Deal

Racing to the Sine Die deadline on Monday at midnight, budget negotiators in the House and Senate reached a deal to provide $100 million more in tax cuts designed to reduce the impact of increased state taxes resulting from the federal tax bill passed in December. The package of tax cuts and credits is across 10 different bills, but the largest of the cuts is rooted in an increase of the Maryland standard deduction. This round of tax cuts are on top of changes earlier this year to return $200 million to taxpayers by increasing the standard deduction for the state income tax by $500 for individuals and $1,000 for married couples. This change indexes the state’s standard deduction rate to inflation, allowing it to grow over time.

Maryland Joins U.S. Census Lawsuit

Attorney General Brian Frosh moved Maryland to be the 18th state to sue the Trump Administration over a proposal by the U.S. Commerce Department to add a question to the 2020 census about a resident’s citizenship. The Constitution requires a decennial census to count everyone in the country regardless of their citizenship. The addition of a citizenship question is fanning fears that immigrants and their families will not participate in the census, leading to undercounts and underrepresentation for the next 10 years.

Hogan’s Thin Skin Costs Taxpayers $65,000

In a victory for free speech, four Marylanders who had been blocked and had their comments deleted by Gov. Hogan and his social media team were paid $65,000 to settle their case. With the support of the ACLU of Maryland, the four plaintiffs brought suit against the governor and his staff for blocking political comments that were contrary to the talking points of the governor and his administration. The settlement also required the governor to rewrite his social media policies. Accordingly, Hogan plans to create a separate Facebook page for constituents to raise issues and make comments.

Some School Calendar Relief

The House and Senate passed emergency legislation to allow school districts to extend their academic calendar by five days without having to ask for a waiver from the State Board of Education. The bill allows for the extension if districts lose days of instruction because of severe weather. Gov. Hogan indicated he would sign the bill, and upon that notice, a few school districts made immediate changes in their schedules to restore spring break days thought to be lost. The legislation only gives districts flexibility at the end of the year. Districts are still required by Hogan’s Executive Order to delay the start of the student year until after Labor Day.

CAMPAIGN 2018Primary Season Is Upon Us

With less than three months until the June primary race for governor, Congress, and other local elections, voters are seeing their first political ads of the season thanks to self-funder David Trone. The wealthy businessman — who lost a congressional race in District 8 in 2016 despite spending $12 million of his own money — is back at it in District 6, launching his first television ads earlier this week.

Meanwhile, in the governor’s race, Krish Vignarajah is making a stand against Sinclair Broadcasting, making a pledge to not advertise on their four Maryland stations. It remains to be seen if her campaign can afford to spend widely on television ads.

Fix the Fund Update and Overriding Vetoes was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

New Investments for School Construction and School Safety

March 30, 2018 - 5:17pm
And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the StreetSource: WikipediaTHIS WEEK IN ANNAPOLISNew Financial Commitments and Streamlining of the School Construction Process

While egos and hurt feelings of some state elected officials dominated headlines around the debate and passage of the 21st Century School Facilities Act (HB 1783), the core of the bill is about streamlining some of the regulatory process related to school construction and adding new financial commitments to address the tremendous backlog of construction projects across the state. Just in approved projects in the capital improvement program alone, school construction needs add up to $4 billion. Currently, the state has set an annual capital budget floor of $250 million. Under the legislation that has now passed both chambers, that floor will rise to $400 million per year. Importantly, as the debate has continued about new investments for school safety measures, this bill also establishes and funds the School Safety Grant Program at $10 million per year, helping school districts make school security improvements like lockable classroom doors.

The current school construction process is politicized by the role of the Board of Public Works, which has used the annual “beg-a-thon” to shame local school superintendents on specific construction and maintenance projects. While oversight and transparency are important to a process that will always involve some politics, the current practice is more showmanship than stewardship. As a result, the bill seeks to empower a newly created nine-member Interagency Commission on School Construction to review and approve all school construction projects. The governor appoints four of the members of this commission, the State Senate appoints two, the House of Delegates appoints two, and the State Superintendent (who works for the governor’s appointees on the State Board of Education) serves as the ninth member.

Governor Hogan has threatened to veto the bill. Both chambers approved the legislation in time to present to the governor for his action while the General Assembly is still in session. If he chooses to veto the new $400 million commitment, $10 million in new support for school safety, and the streamlining of regulations, then the House and Senate could choose to override his veto before the session adjourns Sine Die on Monday, April 9.

Pro-Worker and Pro-Union Bills Pass Both Chambers

This week, the House of Delegates and State Senate approved two priority pro-worker and pro-union bills:

Representative Access to New Educators (HB811): Sponsored by House Education Subcommittee Chair Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery-District 14), this legislation will require school districts to give exclusive bargaining units access to all new educators upon their hiring. Educator associations are legally required to provide representation and bargain on behalf of all employees, not just members, and therefore need the ability to communicate with all new educators to effectively comply with law. This will allow all educators to have a fair shot at being represented.

Teacher Arbitration Rights (SB639): Sponsored by Sen. Guy Guzzone (D-Howard-District 13), this bill provides fairness to the process for suspending or dismissing a certificated school employee. This bill accomplishes that fairness by allowing an employee to request a hearing before an arbitrator instead of a hearing officer selected and paid by the local board of education. ESP members already have the right to negotiate the use of arbitration.

Maryland Set to Expand Voting Rights

MSEA has been part of a coalition led by Common Cause Maryland to expand voting rights, including allowing for Election Day registration and automatic voter registration. A change to allow new voters to register and vote on Election Day requires a change to the Maryland Constitution. So while HB 532 has passed both the House and Senate, it creates a Constitutional Amendment that will be on the November ballot for Maryland voters to decide. Maryland already allows registering and voting on the same day during early voting, but if this amendment passes, Maryland will join more than a dozen other states that allow for same day Election Day registration and voting.

Senate Bill 1048 is the Secure and Accessible Registration Act that will be presented to the governor by this weekend for his action. This bill will allow Maryland residents to register to vote when they deal with certain state agencies, including the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, local social service agencies, and the Maryland Transit Administration’s mobility office. If this bill becomes law, it will change the current “opt-in” process of registering to vote to an “opt-out” system and is designed to help make it easier to have more Marylanders registered and able to vote in future elections. Neither this bill nor HB 532 will impact who can register and vote in the 2018 election.

NEWS AND NOTESFY 19 Budget Finalized

In short order this week, the budget conferees reached agreement and the full House and Senate voted to adopt the FY19 Budget Bill and the Budget Reconciliation Act. Here are a few key points of the final budget actions:

· Achieves the Spending Affordability Committee’s goals of eliminating the structural deficit and leaving a fund balance of more than $200 million.

· State aid for public education grows $161.3 million over the previous year and dedicates $200 million to support the future cost of implementing the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission starting next year.

· Includes $26 million in the operating budget for school safety.

· Restores legislative priorities that Gov. Hogan cut or eliminated, including the restoration of funds for the teacher induction and retention program, teacher quality incentives, and next generation scholarship funds.

· $7 million for the BOOST voucher program with some stronger language to hold nonpublic schools accountable against discrimination against students and employees and reporting on testing and student performance.

Maryland’s Lawsuit Against President Trump Proceeds

A U.S. District Court judge ruled this week that the emoluments lawsuit filed by Attorney General Brian Frosh alleging that President Trump violated a constitutional prohibition on accepting foreign gifts may proceed. This marks the first time that a lawsuit of this kind has cleared the initial legal hurdle that the plaintiffs have legal standing to sue the president. The judge validated the arguments that Trump holds a financial interest and unfairly profits from business at his Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Oaks Resigns from State Senate

Under indictment on federal bribery and political corruption charges, now former State Senator Nathaniel Oaks resigned from the Maryland Senate Wednesday night, effective Thursday morning, just in advance of his federal court appearance where he entered a guilty plea on two of the bribery charges against him (the other eight charges were simultaneously dropped). Oaks had been stripped of his commitment assignment on the Senate Finance Committee earlier this session.

CAMPAIGN 2018Hoyer Endorses Baker for Governor

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer endorsed Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker in his bid for the Democratic nomination for Maryland governor. In recent months, Baker has also earned the support of U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett.

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Make Debate Agreement

This week, the Maryland Democratic Party announced that all nine of the Democratic candidates for governor have agreed that no campaigns will participate in a television or radio debate without the invitation of all nine candidates.

New Investments for School Construction and School Safety 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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