Annapolis, Maryland — Starting with a radio advertising campaign and online petition drive in January, and continuing with the launch of DontShortchangeMaryland.com in early February, the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) and its members have led a session-long campaign to protect the investment in Maryland schools and restore the education cuts proposed by Gov. Hogan.
"The House budget is a far better budget for Maryland, restoring more than 90% of the $144 million in vital school funding cut by Gov. Hogan and ensuring that funding can keep up with inflation in future years,” said MSEA President Betty Weller. “We urge the Senate to pass a budget with the same strong and forward-looking investment in our students and schools."
On Thursday night, the House of Delegates passed a budget plan to fully fund the Thornton formula and the Geographic Cost of Education Index, both of which were cut by Gov. Hogan. Earlier in the day, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee also passed a budget restoring education funding—sending it to the full Senate for final approval. Even Gov. Hogan has now reversed his position, calling the plan “the right direction” in a statement last Friday after it received bipartisan support in the House Appropriations Committee. His own proposal would have slashed important programs, reduced educator positions, and increased class sizes.
The momentum in both chambers comes as a direct result of educator-to-legislator engagement. Earlier in the week, MSEA and AFSCME Maryland hosted a rally on Lawyers Mall to support the House budget plan. The event—attended by more than 500 educators and state employees—was just the latest mobilization effort in a two-month push for full public school funding. During the 2015 legislative session, MSEA members and pro-public education community members have sent 48,984 emails through MSEA’s website, gathered 16,362 petition signatures in support of funding education, made 1,022 calls through MSEA’s legislative hotline, and set up 117 educator-led lobby visits in Annapolis to communicate directly with legislators about how state budget cuts impact their classrooms all across Maryland.
The grassroots lobbying efforts were spearheaded by two campaigns—a digital push through DontShortchangeMaryland.com and an organizing push through town hall meetings with local educator associations and community members across Maryland. Since its launch, the website has seen 23,569 visitors and 67,047 page views—resulting in tens of thousands of emails to legislators. On the ground, educators have used community organizing meetings to build awareness and outreach to legislators. Events have taken place in nine counties—Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Talbot, and Wicomico—with one more scheduled next week in Prince George’s County.
“This was a grassroots push that said we should invest in what makes our state great and Maryland’s future bright,” said Weller. “The message has been heard loud and clear. Because of the advocacy of educators and parents from across the state and the hard work of legislators, we now have a better budget for Maryland’s students and future.”