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2017 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Summary

The 2017 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly closed last week with many victories for Baltimore City Schools, including the passage of the Protect Our Schools Act. This legislation places specific guidelines on Maryland’s education accountability and intervention plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act. This bill also prevents the State School Board from intervening over the authority of the local school board to create a charter school. It also prohibits them from promoting vouchers as means to turn around a school or district, and calling for a for-profit organization to take over underperforming schools.

The Maryland State Board of Education will now work to finalize the states education plan under ESSA within these established guidelines. The plan should be finalized in the summer and submitted to the Federal Department of Education in September.

Thank you for the time you took from your busy work days to contact your state representatives to support this bill by overriding Governor Hogans veto.

Protect Our Schools Act

Both the state house and senate have passed the Protect Our Schools Acta bill that would place specific guidelines on Marylands education accountability and intervention plans under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Governor Hogan vetoed it, but we helped override his veto, and this bill is now law.

According to this bill that is now law, under the accountability portion of this plan, no more than 65% of a district or schools total score can be based on standardized test scores. (It can be lessbut we succeeded in putting that 65% cap on the weight.) The other 35% of the score (can be more, given what is decided for the testing weight) can be based on at least any of 3 other school quality indicators, including class size, case load, school climate surveys, opportunities to enroll in AP or IB courses and CTE programs, opportunities for industry certification, data on discipline and restorative practices, and access to teachers who hold Advanced Professional certificates or obtained National Board certification. Those other indicators can be no less than 10% of the composite score.

Under the intervention portion of this plan, the state school board is prevented from implementing the privatization plans favored by the Trump/DeVos education administration: the board cannot intervene over the authority of the local school board to create a charter school, not can the state board create a state-wide, New Orleans-style recovery charter school district. In addition, the state board cannot promote vouchers as means to turn around a school or district, not can the state board call for a for-profit organization to take over an underperforming school.

The Maryland State Board of Education will now work to finalize the states education plan under ESSA within these established guidelines. The plan should be finalized in the summer and submitted to the Federal Department of Education in September.

Standardized Testing

Both chambers have passed a bill that would cap the amount of standardized testing that occurs in our public schools. The bill requires each school district to bargain the amount of class time spent in a given year taking federal, state, or locally-mandated standardized tests. If the union and the district cannot come to an agreement, the cap on test-time shall be 2.2%, meaning no more than 2.2% of total class time can be spent taking these mandated, standardized tests.

The bill phases out the High School Social Studies exam, and replaces it with a performance or project based assessment that will be designed by educators with administrators and which is applicable to the curriculum.

Governor Hogan is expected to sign this bill.

Charter School Law

Once again, Governor Hogan introduced a bill that would create a second, state-wide charter school authorizer. Charters authorized by this state authorizer would no longer be overseen by the local school systems, would not have to hire certified teachers, would directly take dollars away from traditional public schools, and would not be bound by any union/collective bargaining agreements. (This would mean that all teachers and staff at these charters would completely lose their union rights and become at-will employees.)

The Baltimore Teachers Union successfully helped defeat this bill, and worked to lobby leaders in Annapolis and City Hall against any such changes in the charter school law that Hogan would want only for Baltimore City as a condition of restoring state funds to the public school system.

Free Public Transit for Baltimore City Public School Students

After MTA announced at the beginning of the school year that it would no longer allow Baltimore Public School students to ride on a public school bus for free until 8pm, this bill forces the MTA to allow students to ride the bus for free for any school-related or academic extracurricular event between 5am and 8pm. This will also generate significant savings to BCPS, who had previously had to pay MTA for students to use the S-Pass out of its own budget.

Hunger Free School Act of 2017

This bill extends the sunset date of the law that alters the enrollment count for school eligibility for the compensatory state aid to education to 2022. All 181 public schools in Baltimore City are eligible to participate in this program.

Bill repealing the role of the Governor in making appointments to, or removing members from, the City Board of School Commissioners.

This bill changes how appointments are made to, and removals are made from, the Baltimore City School Board. Currently, Mayor Pugh and Governor Hogan jointly appoint or remove members to the city School Board. This bill would make it so that only the mayor can appoint or remove members from the School Board. Governor Hogan is expected to sign this bill.

Maryland rescinds its call for a constitutional convention.

Maryland has had on the books a call for a constitutional convention, and a number of other conservative states have also started to pass resolutions calling for a constitutional convention. If enough states issue a call, a convention to change the federal constitution will convene, with the biggest fears being an amendment calling for a balanced federal budget. Such an amendment would drastically reduce federal spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Educational Programs. By repealing its call for a constitutional convention, Maryland is making it more difficult for conservative interests to push a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.

Bill to disallow suspensions for Pre-K through 2nd grade students passes

A bill passed this year that would prohibit suspensions or expulsion for students in Pre-Kindergarten through 2nd grade, except if there is an imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff. Instead, districts must provide supports for teachers and behavioral intervention plans for those students it would have otherwise suspended.

*Private School Voucher Program

The Governor proposed doubling the funding for his private school voucher (titled Broadening Opportunities for Our Students Today, or BOOST) program this year, from $5 million to $10 million. This past year, the first year of the BOOST program, 78% of voucher scholarship participants were already attending a private school.

The BTU fought hard to eliminate this wasteful private school voucher program, but the governors final budget included a $5.5 million provision to keep the program going. Some restrictions were placed on the program, however: the recipients of these scholarships will have to come from public school in the previous year, and schools that accept students under this program will be subjected to the same amount and types of standardized tests that public school students are subjected to. This was added to bring some measure of accountability to the voucher program, just so the public can gauge the performance of this program that uses taxpayer dollars.

*Did NotPass: Education, Grounds for Discipline Binding arbitration.

This bill would have given any teacher who was facing suspension an alternative path to appeal an unfavorable decision. Under this bill, teachers would have been able to choose a 3rd party arbitrator to decide her or his case, and such a decision would have been binding. The bill passed the senate, but not the house.