Legislative Updates on the education bills under consideration in the Maryland General Assembly are coming fast and furious now. A second set of updates was presented to the Harford County Board of Education by the schools’ governmental liaison Kathy Carmello, at a business meeting held Monday, February 22 in Bel Air. This time around, Harford School Board Member John Smilko raised the possibility of intrigue among the sundry list of legislative initiatives for the 2010 session.
Background: After first asserting that legislative changes were not needed for Maryland to win a chunk of the $4 billion federal, Race to the Top money, Governor Martin O’Malley has now requested changes geared toward getting the loot in the proposed Education Reform Act of 2010. The legislation extends the probationary period from 2 to 3 years before new teachers can earn tenure; requires that student outcomes be a “significant component” of performance evaluations for teachers and principals, and allows for a stipend to be paid to highly effective teachers who work in the lowest achieving schools, contingent upon receipt of the federal funds. The legislation has drawn opposition from the state teachers’ union, the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), creating political risk for O’Malley.
At the same time, the Fairness in Negotiations Act, which has failed to win passage in previous sessions, is on the fast track this year. The bill creates a new, Public School Labor Relations Board that could force local school boards to shift funds within their budgets in order to comply with binding labor settlements. MSEA, the state union, is in strong support.
Both the Education Reform Act of 2010, which MSEA opposes, and the Fairness in Negotiations Act, which MSEA supports, have hearings on March 10th in the House Ways & Means Committee.
School Board Member John Smilko connected the dots between the two bills, asking “Is there a quid pro quo with the Fairness in Negotiations Act?”
Randy Cerveny, president of the local Harford County Education Association later told The Dagger there was no deal between the Governor and MSEA on the two bills. He said that MSEA does not support the Education Reform Act in its current form, but is working on possible amendments.
Of course the opposition from MSEA could all be for show, if O’Malley has made a take-the-good-with-the-bad agreement behind the scenes. The possibility of a secret deal has some support among The Dagger’s Annapolis sources.
In other legislative news, the bill to bring voting rights to the student member of the Harford County Board of Education may be in trouble. HB 978 grants limited voting rights to the student board member and excluding the right to vote on budget, personnel and school redistricting decisions. The House bill has sponsorship from the Harford Delegation. But the lack of a cross-filing in the Senate, may spell trouble. State Senator Barry Glassman tells The Dagger that the legislation does not have the support needed in the Senate at this time. HB 978 has a hearing on March 10th in the House Ways & Means Committee.
Also noteworthy is SB 360 – Offenses Reportable to School Authorities which expands the list of crimes committed by students that warrant notification of school officials. SB 360 has already had a hearing in the Senate.
Kathy Carmello, the government relations liaison for HCPS, told the school board that a bill pushing some teacher pension costs onto the counties is unlikely to pass this year, but is a real concern for next year. Senate President Mike Miller has sponsored SB 959 – State Retirement and Pension System – Local Employer Contributions – Educators and Staff. No hearing date has been set.
A few other bills are worth mentioning:
Teachers and Other Personnel-Transfer-Notice, which requires written notice to staff 10 days prior to a transfer. Noting that some transfers are made for the safety of students and staff, the school board voted to oppose the measure.
Three other bills would require the development of new curriculum on topics such as diabetes awareness, financial literacy, and dating violence. Delegate Susan McComas is a co-sponsor of the curriculum bill on dating violence. The school board opposes bills requiring specific curriculum on the grounds that curriculum is best left to school boards. The Maryland State Board of Education does have curriculum in the works for financial literacy.
The most curious bill, I saved for last: High School Sports – Mandatory Playing Guidelines mandates that each member of a school athletic team present at a competition must be allowed to play, unless they are ill, or physically or emotionally unable (except for varsity). This bill makes you wonder whether there is any human endeavor that’s beyond the reach of potential legislation. A hearing for HB 503 is scheduled for March 3rd in the House Ways & Means Committee.
The following is the full text of the Legislative Update presented to the school board Monday evening: