Comments on HB 1300 “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future”
Speech I gave on the House floor, Friday, March 6, 2020, 8:30 p.m. (modified)
Like all of my colleagues, I have been very impressed with the amount of effort that has gone into this bill, and the passion and faith that Chairman Kirwan has
And unlike some of my colleagues, I think the integrated accountability programs are well-designed and provide a glimmer of hope that this bill might actually succeed at improving our schools. This is something all of us want.
Nonetheless, I cannot vote for this bill. Here is why:
In amending the bill, you completely erased the governor’s role in choosing the members of the pivotal Accountability Board; it was unnecessary, and it was mean-spirited.
Also, in amending the bill, you reallocated program funding from what was reasonably fair to what was obviously political. Once again, Baltimore City (and Prince Georges County) were given millions of dollars more, while allocations to jurisdictions such as Carroll and Howard were reduced.
There is an inherent unfairness in this amendment. Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, respectively, spend 10% and 5% more than the state per-pupil average. Teacher salaries in the City are the highest in the State; and the amount of money the City spends on administration is the highest in the country!
But they pay far less of their own revenue than any other jurisdiction. Most of the counties in the State dedicate from 35% to 60% of local revenue to their school systems; Baltimore City dedicates between 5% and 7%. That means that 78 cents of every education dollar the City spends comes from federal and state subsidies.
Finally, I cannot vote for a bill that has a $32 BILLION price tag, with absolutely no means of paying for it. Despite the majority party’s claim that the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future will pay for itself, we all know that isn’t possible. And we know the only way to fund this bill is by raising taxes
There is a reason a roomful of relatively smart legislators support the Kirwan bill; they bought into a false narrative: that Maryland under-invests in education.
It doesn’t. Maryland spent 22% more (on a per-pupil basis) and paid its teachers 28% more than the national average. It is infuriating that the Kirwan Commission built their “blueprint” around four top performing school systems, but took not notice that 3 of the 4 school systems spend far less.
And they pay their teachers far less thant Maryland does.
Another questionable assumption is that “Teachers are underpaid.” This, also, is arguably false:
Teachers in the lowest income jurisdiction in Maryland are among the most highly paid in the Country – and the most highly paid in Maryland.
Moreover, there are studies that show that a majority of teachers who leave the profession end p with a job that pays less. Likewise, people who come from another job into teaching, generally come into a higher salary.
Finally, one has asked if “other professionals” is the most reasonable way to set teacher salaries. Why not measure teacher salaries against the salaries paid to teachers in the top 4 school systems we used to imitate for everything else?
Before I will vote for a bill that will either force huge tax increases or put us in bankruptcy, we need to look to at least one other solution that is provable in this Country, and that is cheap: look to our neighboring city, Washington D.C.
It is almost incomprehensible to me that legislators in this state are so afraid of the teachers’ union that you not only refuse to sponsor more Charter Schools or the BOOST voucher program but that you actively banned their use in the Protect our Schools Act several years ago.
I have been supporting Charter Schools and programs like BOOST for 40 years -- 40 years ago, the primary supporters of school choice were libertarian Republicans and progressive Democrats! The issue of fairness for all of us was fairness – of “EQUITY” -- which seems to the sacred password of the progressives particularly this year.
How can we have a school system that is fair – that provides EQUITY – when people with money can send their kids anywhere – can find the best schools or the schools that most closely fit the needs of their children. Whereas low income families are stuck in neighborhoods with schools that don’t meet the needs of any children, without the wherewithal to get their kids into a decent school.
The RICH have school choice; the poor do not!
I have a hard time understanding my colleagues whom I know are smart and caring, actively resist giving low income parents the ability to offer their children an opportunity to learn in a school that can teach them, especially when the cost is minimal.
Other Multi-Million Dollar Legislation
Finally, we are looking at Kirwan in a vacuum – like we do with most bills. The $32 Billion price tag is not the sole spending increase requested this year! Unfortunately, our legislative process provides no opportunity to evaluate bills collectively. We never look at what the State can or should spend in total.
If we did, we would have to contend with the facts that:
Our fiscal house in not in sufficient good order to start paying for expensive new programs;
Because of our excessive spending, a “structural deficit” is always an issue
Each year we have to eliminate some mandated expenses just to make the budget balance
Pensions and OPEBs are waiting just around the next decade to bust the budget
We should be looking for ways to cut the budget. Instead, we continue to look for ways to spend more money and create more programs. Just this year, legislators have filed well over 100 bills with fiscal notes of over $1,000,000, most of which include a mandate that the Governor fund them. And the majority of these bills mandate spending not just for this year, but are ongoing programs requiring increasing annual funds.
Our constituents have made it very clear that they do NOT want to pay more in taxes – even for more services!
We might do well to listen to them. If not, you might look back at this “Blueprint for Maryland Act” and find out it was actually the “Elect a Republican Governor Act.”
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