And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street
On Wednesday, Gov. Hogan delivered his third State of the State speech to both chambers of the General Assembly, using rhetoric on bipartisanship that his record doesn’t quite support. Education made it to the top of the speech, where he talked about “record funding for education” and promoted his school privatization proposals, citing “students who are trapped in persistently failing schools.”
Gov. Hogan’s real record on education — so weak that he needed to put his spin at the top of his speech — has been one of cutting public school funding and instead increasing taxpayer dollars for charter and private schools. Gov. Hogan has tried to cut public schools by $275 million, successfully cut $93 million, proposed a $7 million private school voucher program, and has now twice proposed taking money from traditional public schools and allocating it directly to charter schools. He has definitively made it more difficult for public schools — and our educators — to deliver on the promise of providing a high-quality education to every single student.
In response to Gov. Hogan’s very noticeable silence on President Trump’s ban of travelers and green-card holders from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Maryland Democrats voiced concern over the weekend with having a governor unwilling to stand up for American values.
Then on Tuesday, Democratic leadership held a press conference unveiling a five-part plan to protect the rights of Maryland residents from Trump’s dangerous agenda: including ways to help people hurt by a potential Affordable Care Act repeal and giving Attorney General Brian Frosh more power to challenge illegal federal laws or regulations.
After the governor again failed to mention President Trump in his State of the State, The Baltimore Sun editorial board slammed Hogan for living in an “alternative reality,” including his looking the other way on Trump’s plan to privatize schools. They wrote, “The governor’s speech existed in some kind of parallel reality in which the president’s campaign to start trade wars, gut the federal workforce, decimate environmental regulations, privatize schools, dragoon police into enforcing immigration laws and close our borders to the world’s most vulnerable bears no mention in an accounting of the state of the state.” And now WBAL is reporting that Hogan is deleting comments from his Facebook page that criticize the governor’s silence on Trump’s agenda.
The governor’s latest attack on public institutions comes in the form of new legislation to give future state workers (not including teachers) the choice of defined-contribution retirement accounts instead of defined-benefit pensions (HB748/SB540). While more retirement options may sound like a good thing, if new workers choose not to pay into the public system, this proposal would create a huge funding shortage in Maryland’s public employee pension system — hurting the state’s ability to pay pensions costs for everyone in the defined-benefit plan.
AFSCME put out a strong statement of opposition, drawing attention to the fact that defined-contribution plans rely on stock market fluctuations and are therefore much riskier. The end result is destabilized funding for public pensions and less eventual retirement savings for state workers tricked into picking the defined-contribution option. MSEA will oppose this legislation and work tirelessly to protect educators’ pensions.
MarylanderReporter.com also reported this week about the governor’s move to cut $50 million in supplemental pension funding from this year’s budget.
Following a million emails and 40,000 calls from NEA members and public education advocates, Betsy DeVos is now one vote away from losing a confirmation vote to become U.S. Secretary of Education. That’s because two Republican senators — Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski — and each of the 48 Senate Democrats have now announced opposition to her confirmation.
The Senate is planning to vote on DeVos on Monday, giving public education champions a few more days to find one more Republican to block her historically unqualified nomination. Have family or friends in a red state? Ask them to call 1–855–882–6229 to urge their Senator to oppose Betsy DeVos on Monday. The calls are working.
Maryland’s Senators have been out in front to reject the DeVos confirmation, and this week joined MSEA President Betty Weller in restating their opposition to her school privatization agenda. On Wednesday, Ben Cardin, Chris Van Hollen, and Weller sent out a joint press statement, reading in part: “Our state needs state and federal leaders who will stand up to President Trump when his actions are wrong for Maryland families. There is no question that Betsy DeVos’ appointment to this important position warrants such vocal opposition. Mrs. DeVos is an unacceptable leader for our country’s schools and we are proud to stand with thousands of Maryland students, teachers and parents in opposing President Trump’s dangerous appointment for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.”
Speaking of which, Gov. Hogan’s been pretty silent on her nomination. You can call his office to see what he thinks of her at 410–974–3901
This week, public education champions Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery-District 18) and Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Baltimore and Howard-District 12) introduced legislation that would put three current teachers and two parents on the State Board of Education (HB590/SB609). During Gov. Hogan’s term, the board has seen a big loss of members with teaching experience and now lacks the perspective of what happens in public schools. For example, the board has a private school principal but zero public school teachers. We know bad education policy happens when educators are not involved in decision-making, so this bill would ensure the State Board of Education has significant educator voice.
Last week, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker told The Washington Post in an interview that he is moving “closer to a yes” on running for governor in 2018. He said he’s touring the state to decide whether to run and that he’s undaunted by the Gov. Hogan’s fundraising or approval ratings. Both Baker and another potential candidate for governor, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, countered Hogan’s State of the State address during interviews with reporters in Annapolis this week.
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. It’s the only way we can raise our voices to compete with the corporate interests trying to privatize our public schools.