The 2010 Maryland General Assembly session is just about to the mid-point, and well over a hundred bills relating to schools and their employees have been filed for legislators to consider. Of course, not every bill portends big changes to the state of education in the State, but some do. And they’re worth noting while there’s still time to rally support or stamp them out, depending on your point of view.
To that end, a Legislative Update presented to the Harford County Board of Education by the school system’s governmental relations liaison Kathy Carmello, recently highlighted a number of education bills. The school board voted to support some, oppose others, and some were presented for informational purposes only.
Here are a few of those bills worth watching, followed by their currently scheduled hearing dates. In lieu of attending a hearing, letters and e-mails can also be sent directly to the appropriate committee members. Click on the link provided for more information, including the full text of each bill.
Maintenance of Effort (MOE) is a long-standing state law requiring the counties to provide their school systems with at least the same level of local funding from one year to the next, measured on a per pupil basis. With the economic downturn, MOE has come into the crosshairs of local governments seeking relief, and a number of MOE bills have been introduced. More may be on the way.
HB 304/SB 310 would make adjustments to the process for MOE waivers. SB 403 would roll back the state penalty for counties that fail to meet MOE. And the bill entitled HB 410, Statewide Maintenance of Effort Waiver, would eliminate the MOE requirement statewide, for fiscal year 2011. That last measure prompted opposition from the Harford school board because it has the potential to cut local funding for public education. The hearing date for HB 410 is 2/24 in the House Ways & Means Committee. The Senate version, SB 310, also has a hearing on 2/24 in the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee.
Age of Compulsory Attendance – Exemptions raises the age of compulsory school attendance from under 16 years to under 17, with exceptions. State Senator Barry Glassman is a co-sponsor. The school board took no position at this time, citing potential (unfunded) expenses, while acknowledging the sponsors’ good intentions. Hearing dates: SB 239 on 2/24 in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, HB 723 on 3/3, House Ways & Means Committee.
Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers (BOAST) in Maryland Tax Credit is a controversial bill with plenty of co-sponsors in the House, (Harford Delegation Chairman J.B. Jennings and Delegate Mary-Dulany James are among them). The bill creates a tax credit for contributions made to non-profits that do one of three things: a.) support innovative public school programs geared toward the goals of Maryland’s Bridge to Excellence Act, b.) assist public school teachers with the cost of graduate-level education or certification coursework, c.) provide scholarships for students or teachers at private schools. The last one is the kicker that led to opposition from the Harford County Board of Education on the grounds that it diverts public funds to private schools. Hearing date: SB385 on 3/3 in the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee, HB 946 on 3/17 in the House Ways & Means Committee.
Public Charter School Facility Revolving Loan Fund would lend money to qualified public charter schools to build school facilities. Maryland currently has no provision for funding charter school facilities and Maryland’s public charter school laws rank among the weakest in the nation, a liability in the competition for federal, Race to the Top bonus bucks. The school board opposes the bill, citing the overwhelming needs of public school facilities. Hearing date: SB366 on 2/24 in the Senate EHEA Committee; HB 610 on 3/17 in the House Ways & Means Committee.
Maryland Longitudinal Data System would allow local school systems, postsecondary institutions and state workforce agencies to exchange student data for research purposes and to ease the flow of information between state entities. Passage could lead to a better understanding of the reasons why many high school graduates need remedial coursework in college. The school board voted to support these bills. Hearing dates: HB 467 on 2/24 in the House Ways & Means Committee, SB 275 already had a hearing on 2/17.
And last, but not least, the Fairness in Negotiations Act is back. The bill establishes a State Labor Relations Board to hear labor disputes between local school boards and their employee unions, a role currently played by the Maryland State Board of Education. The school board opposes the bill, saying it could force funds to be shifted within school budgets to comply with binding decisions imposed by the new labor relations board. Arguing on the other side will be the unions, which have supported this bill in the past and will do so again this year. Hearing dates: SB 590 on 3/4 in the Senate Finance Committee, HB 243 on 3/10 in the House Ways and Means Committee.
Read on for more a more detailed summary of these, and other bills, as outlined in the Legislative Update approved by the Harford County Board of Education on February 16, 2010: