• Maryland State Board of Education Sets Legislative Priorities For New Year- Turns Deaf Ear To Locals' Concerns Regarding Funding

    December 8, 2023
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    Despite low scores and the fact that local jurisdictions are struggling to fund the state's behemoth Blueprint program, the Maryland State Board of Education met December 5 and set legislative priorities that did not address either of those issues. They ignored academics and pushed more funding.

    In a letter labeled "draft" from interim Superintendent Carey Wright, the state board barely gave lip service to the locals' concerns regarding funding and academics.

    Review of the 2024 State Board Legislative Platform and Preview of 2024 Legislative Session (marylandpublicschools.org)

    As they addressed funding, the Board doubled down on the present Blueprint Funding model, stating, "The State Board supports the full funding of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future." Apparently, the calls from across the state that the Blueprint will raise local taxes by as much as 10% during what are difficult economic times and that locals will not be able to maintain the cost of the program fell on deaf ears.

    Then, they followed this statement up with two contradictory statements:

    "The State Board advocates for fiscal accountability and prudence during difficult
    budgetary times. The State Board prioritizes support for legislation that minimizes fiscal
    impact on the State budget and results in the strategic reallocation of funding from
    existing Blueprint or other existing educational appropriations."

    "The State Board generally opposes unfunded legislative mandates for the State Board,
    MSDE, and local school systems."

    Did you hear the derisive laughter from county executives, school superintendents, and school board presidents as they read these two comments? In translation, the State Board is saying, " We want fiscal accountability and prudence but only when it applies to what the state must fund not what this will cost local jurisdictions. Don't call us when you go broke. Oh, and by the way, we hate unfunded mandates too but what are you gonna do."

    In another part of the policy statement rundown, the State Board states that they want to find better ways to identify poor students.

    "The State Board supports the usage of the neighborhood indicators of poverty methodology in funding
    formulas over time, wherever appropriate, to better reflect the depths of poverty experienced by
    students."

    "Depths of Poverty." Will that include being bankrupted by property taxes to support the Blueprint? Probably not. It's like what the Federal Government is doing, artificially making more students "poor" so they can justify more entitlements. Remember, the income for poverty level for a family of four can be as high as $90,000 a year. "

    As for the focus on literacy, the State Board promises to keep being focused on literacy. Need they say more?

    "There are a number of strategies that the State Board supports to build on the progress we have
    already made in literacy, including but not limited to: strengthening accountability measures around
    implementation of evidence-based literacy principles through an ongoing review process and
    embedding professional learning requirements for all K-3 teachers focused on literacy."

    The Board then goes on to state that they want to recruit and retain quality teachers, they want to provide early childhood education, and more mental health care.

    In a statement that ignores the fact that the Blueprint has actually caused many childcare businesses in the state to close, the Board says:

    "The State Board strongly supports growing access to affordable child care for families and offering
    assistance to child care providers as they operate in a challenging system. The State Board supports
    additional flexibilities for families and providers that minimizes burden and offers stability in the
    availability of affordable child care."

    Another word salad promising "flexibilities for families and providers" while the Blueprint has done exactly the opposite by requiring public schools to add three-year-old programs regardless of the fact that locals don't have facilities or staff to do so.

    As for mental health care, again, the State doubles down on offering mental and behavioral health services to students by bypassing parents and committing an overreach of the educational system and the government:

    "The State Board supports access to critical mental and behavioral health resources and empowering
    school systems to offer support to students through the identification and referral to appropriate
    services within the professional mental and behavioral health community. "

    You don't see the words "family" or "parents" in there, do you? And, they are not specific about what these resources will be.

    In all, the statement of policy is what they call a big nothing burger when it comes to real educational issues such as actually teaching reading, math, science, social studies etc. If the policies stated are their legislative priorities, hold on to your pocketbooks as we continue to plummet to educational mediocrity and failure.

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    Author

    Jan Greenhawk

    Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.
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