And other legislative updates in this month’s Up the Street
The seditious, shameful attack on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday wounded the fabric of our community and nation, and it reinforced the necessity of our work as educators, advocates, and community-builders. Our nation can and must deliver more just and equitable opportunities, but that will only be achieved through a robust commitment to truth, democracy, and long-overdue racial justice. MSEA stands in solidarity with the National Education Association (NEA), which on Thursday called for President Trump to be immediately removed from office, stating that “our students are watching what we do next to protect our country, and it is our duty as educators to fight to protect our democracy and a nation that is always seeking to create a more perfect union of the people, by the people, and for the people.” NEA has provided several resources that may help educators manage, and relay the importance of, the history we are living.
For the 2021 legislative session that begins January 13, MSEA has developed not only a list of legislative priorities but a comprehensive vision for Maryland students’ recovery from the devastating coronavirus pandemic and longstanding inequity that have devastated communities. Our vision is student-centered, educator-led, community-based, and transformative, rather than just curative.
Our primary goal this session involves overriding Gov. Hogan’s veto of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and other 2020 legislation that supports education and equity. Overriding the veto of the Blueprint will launch a decade of programs that address longstanding inequities that disproportionately affect students living in areas of concentrated poverty. The pandemic has laid bare the desperate need to create strong schools in every neighborhood by providing additional support to struggling learners, hiring more educators and increasing their pay, expanding access to career and technical education, and delivering a more prosperous future for Maryland. Overriding the governor’s veto of the Blueprint will also restore the Built to Learn Act, a $2.2 billion investment in school construction. The veto override means repairs can begin on crumbling and unhealthy schools, and desperately needed local jobs and economic opportunities can be generated through these infrastructure projects.
As recently as January 5, Hogan remained opposed to those initiatives, saying he hoped legislators would not override his vetoes. Our advocacy remains vital to see these measures are enacted to recover from the conditions that have shortchanged students, not just during the pandemic but for years.
Many legislators’ early bill filings for the 2021 session are focused rightly on relief from the effects of the pandemic and social injustice: unemployment disparity, inequitable resource distribution, workplace implicit bias, racial profiling, and housing inequity.
The imperative to recover from the pandemic drives the Blueprint, these early filings, and MSEA’s legislative priorities for 2021.
The Spending Affordability Committee, in place to review budget projections and make recommendations on the scope of the operating and capital budget each year, reported that revenue streams dedicated to funding the Blueprint have yielded enough to pay for the new formula through FY26. These projections are evidence of legislators’ years of prudent planning to prepare and lay the funding groundwork for the Blueprint. Unfortunately, the governor’s ill-conceived vetoes last year stalled some revenue-generating legislation that would have benefited education already. We will advocate for those veto overrides or the reintroduction of the same legislation for the Tobacco, Sales and Use Tax and Digital Advertising Gross Revenues Tax and the 21st Century Economy Fairness Act. Together, these progressive tax bills were estimated to generate as much as a quarter billion dollars in their first year.
We are mindful that whatever education funding the governor proposes in his budget may rely on the artificially low student enrollment count from September 2020. Enrollment experienced a one-time drop because of the pandemic and will bounce back next year. Funding based on this year’s count will only make the recovery for our schools and students harder. We will advocate for the budget to at least hold school systems harmless in FY22.
President-elect Biden’s selection of Miguel Cardona to be Education Secretary means that after four disastrous years of Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education will have a leader who supports the mission and promise of public schools. Dr. Cardona brings experience as an elementary school teacher, principal, and state school leader in Connecticut. Far too late to divest herself from her record and the president who appointed her, DeVos announced her resignation Thursday night, claiming that the insurrection at the Capitol was an “inflection point.”
The delivery of the coronavirus vaccine has gone much slower than anticipated, but educators have been moved up to be eligible sooner than originally laid out in the October Maryland COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. Distribution Phase 1A is underway, vaccinating health care workers, first responders, and those living in long-term care, a total of more than 500,000 people. Phase 1B will include people in assisted living and other congregate settings, educators, child-care workers, people responsible for the continuity of government, and people 75 and older. Anticipating a potential to vaccinate more than 10,000 people per day, Hogan said that Phase 1B may begin at the end of January. The latest vaccination updates are available on the state website. We’ve compiled more about what we know relative to educators here.
With his strength declining from cancer, former Senate President Mike Miller resigned from the Senate last month after serving in the legislature a half century. A year ago he gave up the Senate presidency he had held for a record 33 years due to his health challenges. A staunch education advocate and legendary figure, Miller championed the Blueprint, the Thornton funding formula that preceded it, and countless other bills that have impacted the lives of generations of Marylanders. His replacement will be selected by Calvert, Charles, and Prince George’s counties’ Democratic State Central Committees, and approved by the governor. Senate President Bill Ferguson has assigned a seat on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to the next 27th District senator.
For the 40th House District, the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee selected attorney and former teacher Marlon Amprey to fill the seat left vacant by Delegate Nick Mosby’s resignation to serve as Baltimore City Council president. The governor approved Amprey Wednesday to serve the remaining two years of the four-year term. Amprey is a third-generation Baltimore resident who is the nephew of former Baltimore City School superintendent Walter Amprey.
Even before we’ve recovered from the tumultuous 2020 campaign it’s time to focus on 2022: Comptroller Peter Franchot has been ramping up a campaign for governor for nearly a year. Meanwhile, Baltimore Delegate Brooke Lierman (D-46) has begun her campaign for the comptroller’s office, and another Democrat, Bowie Mayor Tim Adams, has formed an exploratory committee for the same seat.