MACo Adopts 2015 Legislative Initiatives

October 1, 2014

At its October 1 meeting, the MACo Legislative Committee formally adopted the proposed initiatives for the 2015 session, a work product of the Association’s Initiatives Subcommittee.  The Initiatives Subcommittee met through the summer to refine and focus a list of 25 initiatives into no more than four, as required by the Association’s bylaws. With the upcoming election in November and potential changes in local elected officials serving on the Legislative Committee, the Legislative Committee will discuss and approve the initiatives again in January.

The 2015 Initiatives are a very proactive agenda which will span across all budget and policy committees of the General Assembly.  MACo will continue to advocate for local transportation funding and seek greater cooperation and investment in our schools. MACo has also responded to county concerns in other policy areas, adopting initiatives to address the growing drug problem confronting each county and build an efficient and effective pretrial system.

The items adopted as legislative initiatives are as follows:

Local Transportation Funding Restoration – With the recent expansion of transportation revenues, it is time for local governments to again play a more significant role in the State’s transportation funding plan. Many new State projects, including transit, have been added into the Consolidated Transportation Plan, while local governments have continued to struggle to maintain and preserve their roadways. MACo believes all avenues should be explored to restore local funding – the use of federal resources, the reallocation of funds should projects be delayed, and the reallocation of state highway user revenues back to local governments over time. MACo urges State policymakers to take the necessary steps to restore HUR and local roadway infrastructure.

Cooperation and Investment in Education – Counties have concerns that strict school funding laws may deter county investment of additional funding above required minimums and stem cooperation between county governments and school boards. Reducing funding disincentives may encourage county support for innovative pilot programs, and more fairly recognize short-term needs or investments as outside perpetual mandates. A smarter system for budget submissions to the State could mesh with county and school board budget processes, giving them a meaningful opportunity to consider reducing overall costs through joint administration of programs and other collaborations.

Broad Tools to Tackle the Drug Crisis – Drug-related deaths and crises continue to rise in epidemic proportions. Counties in all regions need support and coordination among state and local agencies, with appropriate local flexibility, to bridge remaining gaps. A customized approach is required as the diverse agents will require different forms of assistance. First responders will benefit from additional training and equipment. Public health providers will benefit from support to retain and expand treatment and preventative services. Citizens will benefit from increased access to life-saving medications and innovative policies to protect their individual and collective well-being. MACo advocates for comprehensive legislation and budget initiatives to address the growing drug problem confronting each county and the unique needs of their communities by providing broader and better tools.

Efficient and Effective Pretrial Functions – Counties urge the state to adopt effective measures to improve pretrial services in District Courts. A one-time $10 million earmarked to provide court-mandated counsel offers nothing more than a temporary effort. District Courts are seeing process backups, local jails face housing challenges, and counties anxiously await the unknown mid-year cost burden. An effective and efficient pretrial system requires investment in properly trained staff, improved communication technology, better tools for risk assessment, and assurances that the State will back up this new commitment. Counties urge the State to deliver a plan to resolve this vexing issue without overloading local jails with longer term pretrial holdings, or unfunded mandates to support programs or employees totally outside their control.

Secretary of Labor Touts Maryland Community College Job-training Program

September 30, 2014

(Work in Progress), the US Department of Labor’s blog recently published a story on job-driven training in our country’s community colleges by US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.  Perez writes about a federal grant program called TAACCCT and shares a story of a student he met at Anne Arundel Community College enrolled in a TAACCCT-supported program.  He writes,

Today, I joined Vice President Biden at the White House for the announcement of the fourth round of TAACCCT grants — 71 of them in all, worth a total of more than $450 million. That comes on top of the nearly $1.5 billion awarded in the first three rounds. With today’s announcement, roughly 700 colleges nationwide have received TAACCCT funding since 2011. . .

Joining us at the White House today was Gary Pollard, a former Army medic who is starting a $60,000-a-year job thanks to cyber technology instruction he received through TAACCCT-supported programs at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) in Maryland. Last year when I visited the college, I met both Gary and Ginny Quillen, a woman who’s faced considerable challenges in her life. Ginny was abused as a child; she was involved with drugs and served time. But through hard work and resilience, she’s overcome the adversity. And with the Information Assurance and Security certificate she earned at AACC, today she makes $52,000 a year in a job she loves and a field she’s passionate about.

According to the blog’s data, Maryland has received $14,957,899 TAACCCT funding for its Cyber-Technology Pathways Across Maryland (CPAM) Consortium, a statewide effort, consisting of 14 of Maryland’s 16 Community Colleges. The program’s strategies include:

  1. Build a statewide Career Pathways System that is accessible and easy to navigate,
  2. Develop a statewide system of requirements, processes and services for the target population and help participants build skills in the industry and future career path in cyber-security,
  3. Build a connected statewide information and communication system to assist participants in making informed choices and provide data driven analysis to continuous improvement and longer-term planning,
  4. Employ technology to strengthen quality programming across the state, and
  5. Build strategic partnerships that engage employers, leverage resources, expertise and networks to meet participants’ needs for support and respond to employers’ changing skill needs over time.

For more information, see the full blog post from (Work in Progress).

Journalist Traces Rise and Fall of Teaching Trends in New Book

September 25, 2014

The New York Times recently reviewed The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Professiona new book by journalist Dana Goldstein.  In The Teacher Wars, Goldstein chronicles American education reforms from 1820s onward, providing insight into why these reforms have failed, sharing examples of some of the detrimental effects of recent policies, and offering a few suggestions on how we might do better.

In a 12-page epilogue, Goldstein offers a number of sensible recommendations for shoring up those ordinary men and women and improving American schools. These include returning standardized tests to their proper, lower-stakes role: helping teachers determine what their students do and don’t know and where to aim their lessons. Similarly, she suggests using “value-added” calculations — how much an individual teacher raises test scores — to target help to those who are struggling and career opportunities to those at the top. Goldstein does not directly challenge tenure, but she does call for an end to such “outdated union protections” as requiring the last teacher hired to be the first fired during layoffs.

For more information, see the full review from The New York Times, or purchase The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession. For more information on the implementation of federal reforms in Maryland see our previous posts, Workgroup Discusses Common Core Implementation in Maryland and Maryland’s College and Career-Ready Standards Workgroup Releases Preliminary Report.

Washington County Schools Seek Smaller Class Sizes for Youngest Students

September 24, 2014

As reported in Herald Mail Mediastudents in pre-K through second grades in Washington County Public Schools’ might see more teachers in their classrooms or smaller class sizes, according to Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox.  The new comprehensive plan focuses on learning in the early years as a way to ensure students’ future schools success. As described,

In general, more support is needed for prekindergarten through second-grade students, Wilcox said. . . “We all know that early intervention is best. So if we can kind of front-load for success, give kids resources and coaching and teaching early, then we might have a better chance with them when they get to be … upper elementary school and middle school students.”

For more information, see Herald Mail Media and our previous posts on Conduit Street, Joint Committee on Children, Youth, and Families Reviews Pre-K Expansion Funding.

The Number of Homeless Children in Schools Rises

September 24, 2014

As reported by the Associated Press, Education Department statistics released Monday say 1.3 million homeless children were enrolled in U.S. schools in the 2012-2013 school year – an 8 percent increase from the previous school year.

Children’s advocates say the numbers reflect why a greater emphasis is needed on expanding support for homeless families – not just those living in homeless shelters.

For more information, see the full story from the Associated Press and our previous posts on Conduit Street, Data Shows Increase in Homeless Students in Maryland.

Maryland Breakfast Challenge to Feed Students, Reward Schools

September 23, 2014
md breakfast challenge

Image courtesy of Maryland Breakfast Challenge

The No Kid Hungry campaign is seeking to feed 10,000 more kids school breakfast by enrolling 50% of Maryland’s schools in the Maryland Breakfast Challenge.  Some statistics about school breakfast from the Maryland Breakfast Challenge include,

  • Kids who eat a healthy school breakfast do better in math, have higher attendance and are more likely to graduate.
  • School breakfast fuels academic success. Yet, each day too many Maryland students miss out.
  • Make this school year the best one yet: take the Maryland Breakfast Challenge!
  • Help 10,000 more students eat breakfast, and win cash and prizes for your school.

Schools enrolled in the Challenge will compete with other schools in their district and across Maryland. In each county across Maryland, pre-K-12 public schools that show the highest increase in breakfast participation will be eligible to win the following for their schools and administrators:

  • Cash prizes and grants
  • A surprise celebrity visit and party for their school
  • A weekend getaway in DC for two with free hotel and tickets to Taste of the Nation™
  • A visit from a professional football player
  • An espresso machine for the teachers’ lounge
  • A cooking class for students with a local chef

For more information and to learn how to participate, see the Maryland Breakfast Challenge.

School Funding Adequacy – Materials Available Online

September 22, 2014

The Maryland State Department of Education continues to work with stakeholders in studying the adequacy of current state funding levels for public education across Maryland. The group had its second formal meeting on September 18 to discuss the continued progress toward a multi-facated analysis of funding adequacy, and some specific attention to school size as a factor. MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson serves as a county representative.  The group expects to meet again in early December.

For more coverage of this group, on Conduit Street, see below:

MSDE Assembles Funding Adequacy Stakeholder Group

For those following these issues, the study group materials are online at the MSDE website:

Adequacy Study Group
September 18 presentation on adequacy analysis
September 18 presentation on School Size



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