MSDE Awards $26.5M in Pre-K Expansion Grants

The Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Early Childhood recently awarded 53 grants to expand high-quality prekindergarten programs across the state. All nineteen school systems that applied for the expansion grants received funding for at least one additional pre-k classroom.

According to a press release:

The approximately $26 million in grant awards will provide four-year-old children from low-income families access to full-day prekindergarten in school year 2018-2019.

Systems receiving funds are:

Allegany County – $73,440

Baltimore City – $1,175,040

Baltimore County – $660,960

Carroll County – $146,880

Caroline County – $1,332,936

Charles County – $119,880

Dorchester – $844,560

Frederick County – $293,760

Garrett County – $146,880

Harford County – $859,248

Montgomery County – $1,175,040

Prince Georges County – $1,957,176

Queen Anne’s County – $440,640

Somerset County – $220,320

St. Mary’s County – $293,760

Talbot County – $271,728

Washington County – $1,248,480

Wicomico County – $1,674,747

For the past three years these funds have allowed school systems and early childhood programs to increase the length of the day from a half day to a full day, fund highly qualified and certified Early Childhood teachers in each classroom, and serve more vulnerable children who otherwise would not have access to the early education they need for success in school. Maryland’s statewide plan expands high-quality prekindergarten, provides intensive technical assistance, and ensures comprehensive services are accessible in many high-need communities.

These grants have been awarded since 2015 using funds provided to Maryland through the federal Preschool Development Grant – Expansion Grant program and matching state funds made possible through the passage of the Prekindergarten Expansion Act of 2014 (Senate Bill 332).

A total of $88,216,000 will have been provided through this program over the four years of the grant.

Read the full press release for more information.

Councilmember Craig Rice Receives Cornerstone Award for Education & Leadership

Photo courtesy of the Montgomery County Council

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice received the Cornerstone Award for Education and Leadership from the Metropolitan Kappa Youth Foundation at the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.’s Annual Black and White Scholarship Gala on June 8, 2018, for his work and dedication to youth in the Community.

According to a press release:

The Metropolitan Kappa Youth Foundation, Inc. exists as the philanthropic arm of the Silver Spring Alumni Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Metropolitan Kappa Youth Foundation, Inc.’s mission is to provide scholarships and mentoring programs for minority and disadvantaged youth in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area. The Foundation supports and conducts activities with the implicit purpose of helping youth “Achieve.”

“As a son of a teacher, I understand and respect how education is paramount in achieving our goals and ambitions in life,” said Councilmember Rice. “I am honored to have Metropolitan Kappa Youth Foundation recognize my work and ongoing commitment to ensuring all students are afforded the resources and opportunities needed for them to succeed.”

Councilmember Rice chairs the Council’s Education Committee and also serves on its Health and Human Services Committee. Since 2015, Councilmember Rice has organized a series of Education Budget Forums throughout the County, along with leaders from Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery College, to talk about the County’s budget process as it relates to education funding. In addition to representing MACo on the Kirwan Commission, he also serves as the Montgomery County Council representative for the MACo Legislative Committee and has chaired our Education Committee since 2015.

Read the full press release for more information.

Allegany Commissioners Approve Additional School Resource Officer

The Allegany County Board of Commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved a plan to add an additional School Resource Officer (SRO) to the county’s public school system for the 2018-2019 school year. Allegany County will have a total of nine SROs dedicated to serving the school system.

According to the Cumberland Times-News:

The addition of one SRO will bring the total to four officers supplied through the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office. The additional five SROs are supplied through other agencies.

Brandon Butler, county administrator, introduced the topic for a vote. He said while Maryland recently approved additional funding for school security statewide, it may be as late as 2020 before the funds and associated guidelines are made available.

SB 1265, Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018, passed the General Assembly on the final day of the 2018 legislative session and has been signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan. The legislation creates a variety of statewide standards and guidelines.

The bill requires public high schools to have either a school resource officer or plans for adequate law enforcement coverage by the upcoming school year. Public middle and elementary schools will need to have either a school resource officer or plans for adequate law enforcement coverage in place prior to the 2019-2020 school year.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018: What You Need to Know

Read the full article in the Cumberland Times-News

Conduit Street Podcast: Primary Ballot Battle, Kirwan 2.0, Wynne Whammy, & #MACoCon

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson break down the primary ballot battle between gubernatorial Candidate Valerie Ervin and the State Board of Elections, provide insight on the [Kirwan] Commission on Innovation and Excellence In Education, discuss the latest twist in the Wynne saga, and preview the 2018 MACo Summer Conference.

Listen here:

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Ervin Sues State in Primary Ballot Battle

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Reprinting Primary Election Ballots Could Be Costly for Counties

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Court Strikes Wynne Interest Rate, Costing Counties $30 Million

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Could a New Governance Board Guide MD School Reforms?

Carroll Community College Announces Scholarship Stopgap

Carroll Community College recently announced that Carroll County residents who graduate from high school in 2018 may be eligible for a one-year scholarship funded by donors in the Carroll Community College Foundation. Eligible students who enroll and register by July 13 may qualify for a one-year Carroll Promise Scholarship, which will bridge the gap until the Maryland College Promise Scholarship program begins next year.

Governor Larry Hogan in May signed HB 16 – Near Completers and Maryland Community College Promise Scholarships, which allocates $15 million per year in need-based tuition aid for eligible community college students. The program, which begins in 2019 – 2020, requires students access all other eligible financial aid before Maryland’s College Promise scholarship funds, up to $5,000 per year, are awarded. Recipients must work in Maryland one year for each year of scholarship awarded, or the scholarships convert to loans and must be repaid.

The law also provides $2 million over five years to students who are close to finishing degrees at community colleges and four-year institutions. Near-completer students are eligible to receive up to one-third of their tuition dues.

According to a press release:

“We are proud of the fact that our elected officials and Governor passed this new legislation. The opportunity this presents for high school graduates will be life changing for so many. Student success is our top priority, and we don’t want prospective students to wait to enroll until the State scholarships become available,” said College President Dr. James D. Ball. “One of the advantages of starting higher education right after completing high school is that students can continue to build upon the momentum from high school and will get a degree sooner rather than later. We are offering this new scholarship program to ensure a smooth pathway from high school to college without delay because we know that our students will be more successful if they begin right away.”

Carroll’s Promise Scholarship closely mirrors the state’s Maryland Community College Promise program eligibility requirements. One notable exception is Carroll’s grant will not require the year of employment service obligation.

In addition to the Carroll Community College Foundation’s existing annual scholarships, the new Carroll Promise Scholarship program, funded by the Foundation, expects to award an additional $300,000 to Carroll County graduates who meet eligibility requirements.

Eligible students are encouraged to visit Carroll Community College’s Financial Aid Office or call 410-386-8437 for more details.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Hogan Signs Landmark Community College Promise Scholarship Legislation

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: The Fastest-Growing Policy Idea to Produce Qualified Workers? Free Tuition

Read the full press release for more information

Middle Schoolers Explore STEM Careers at Frederick Community College

Frederick Community College (FCC) yesterday hosted more than 1,000 middle school students from sixteen schools for the Ninth Annual FCPS Future Link STEM Career Conference. Students had the opportunity to learn from current professionals in various science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields including Information Technology, Biotechnology, Manufacturing, Engineering, Business, Management, and Finance.

The middle schoolers attended breakout sessions taught by FCC professors as well as business professionals from NASA, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Acela Technologies, Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., NIST, Canam Steel Corp., the Frederick County Department of Emergency Communications, and more. The classes covered a variety of topics such as cybersecurity awareness, making medicines, forensic microscopy, the world of consulting, engineering opportunities, and nursing.

According to The Frederick News-Post:

After 11 years of hosting Future Link with FCPS, Frederick Community College also sees returns on engaging with younger students, [Director of Admissions Lisa] Freel said. The percentage of local secondary students who enroll in FCC every year exceeds the state average.

“It exposes [students] to our campus. They see all the cool things we have here, including the new STEM lab,” Freel said. “They meet some of our professors. A lot of them come through and say, ‘I’m going to FCC when it’s time.’”

Future Link is made possible through a partnership between FCC, Frederick County Public Schools, Frederick County Workforce Services, Frederick Chamber of Commerce, and the Fort Detrick Alliance.

FCC offers many STEM-related majors and programs, including Bioprocessing Technology, Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Gaming and Simulation programs. There is also an Associate of Science STEM degree designed for students who plan to go on to a four-year school and major in one of the traditional STEM areas.

Read the full article for more information.

Smarick Resigns from State Board of Education

Andrew Smarick. (Photo courtesy of the Maryland State Board of Education.)

With his term set to expire next month, Maryland State Board of Education President Andrew Smarick announced that he has submitted a letter of resignation to Governor Larry Hogan. Smarick, who was appointed as a member of the State Board of Education in 2015, served as the school board’s president since 2016.

Smarick is a longtime education policy expert who currently serves as the Morgridge Fellow in Education at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works on education and related domestic and social policy issues. He was formerly an education official at the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush.

According to Smarick’s Twitter account:


Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Hogan Vetoes Three Education Bills

Governor Larry Hogan today vetoed three education bills passed during the 2018 session of the Maryland General Assembly. SB 739 would have altered the makeup of the Maryland State Board of Education, HB 643/SB 678 sought to change the categories of employees in the state Department of Education and in local school systems – making more employees eligible to join unions, and HB 808 would have made it more difficult to terminate political appointees at the Maryland State Department of Education.

Hogan’s vetos are final because it is an election year, and the General Assembly may not override gubernatorial vetos during the first year of a new legislative term. MACo did not take a position on any of these bills.

According to a press release from the Governor’s Office:

Governor Hogan vetoed Senate Bill 739 – State Board of Education – Membership – Teachers and Parent. Senate Bill 739 would have changed the process Maryland uses to select members to the State Board of Education, a move that would have diluted the independence of the State Board of Education by giving teacher unions control over two additional seats on the Board, and dictating that three seats be chosen by just two stakeholder groups, a move that would risk turning this critical policy-making body into a collection of special interest group representatives.

Governor Hogan also vetoed House Bill 643/Senate Bill 678 – State Department of Education – Employment Categories and Practices. This legislation would weaken the Maryland State Department of Education’s capacity to achieve the state’s educational goals – at a time when strengthening the performance of Maryland’s schools and students is more important than ever – by hindering the Department’s ability to compete in an already competitive job market and acquire talented employees.

Finally, Governor Hogan vetoed House Bill 808 – Collective Bargaining – Education – Supervisory Personnel. This legislation would remove local authority to determine who is classified as a “supervisory employee” and give authority over local school system organizational charts to the Public School Labor Relations Board. This new structure would prohibit school leadership from ensuring an efficient operation best suited for the needs of their local school system.

“These pieces of flawed legislation join the unfortunate litany of attempts by the General Assembly over the past four sessions to pass legislation to enhance the power of partisan special interests, while eliminating transparency and usurping accountability,” said Governor Hogan. “At a time when unethical behavior and mismanagement continue to hold our school systems back from serving school children, this sequence of bills that I am vetoing today seek to move Maryland in exactly the wrong direction. Instead, we need to be working together to restore accountability for our students, teachers, and families.”

Read the governor’s veto letter here.

NTSB: Require Seat Belts in New School Buses

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) wants all new school buses to have seat belts.

The independent federal agency, charged with determining the probable cause of transportation accidents, released its findings Tuesday from its special investigation into school bus safety issues. The investigation focused on the November 2016 crash involving a Baltimore City school bus and a transit bus, as well as a school bus crash that occurred that same month in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The two crashes injured 37 people and killed 12.

The NTSB found that, although school busses are “the safest vehicles on the road, and one of the safest modes of transportation overall,” certain enhancements could “close gaps in school bus safety.” These enhancements include lap/shoulder seat belts and technological improvements such as electronic stability control, automatic emergency braking, and event data recorders.

However, insofar as the two investigated crashes are concerned, poor driver oversight was the key issue:

The report cites the overall safety of school buses yet notes a similarity in the two fatal accidents investigated.  The lack of driver oversight which was found to be causal in both accidents. The NTSB found this lack of oversight by not only the school districts in Baltimore and Chattanooga, but also by the motor carriers under contract to the school districts to provide student transportation, which employed the drivers in the two crashes.

In both cases, school bus drivers continued to operate school buses unsafely, with no remedial action taken, even when driver safety issues were known. In addition to lack of oversight, the Baltimore report focused on medically unfit school bus drivers, and commercial driver license fraud.

NTSB issued safety recommendations to the State of Maryland, Maryland State Department of Education, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, Baltimore City Public Schools, and Maryland School Bus Contractors Association, as well as to a number of other public and private entities.

The NTSB recommended that 42 states (including Maryland), the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico adopt legislation requiring lap/shoulder belts on new, large school buses. It recommended that Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, and New York amend their existing statutes requiring lap-only belts to require lap and shoulder belts, instead.

In the past, MACo has weighed in on proposed legislation requiring the retrofit of existing school buses with seat belts, citing cost concerns. The NTSB recommendation only applies to newly purchased school buses moving forward.

Helpful Links

NTSB News Release, “Lack of Driver Oversight Key Issue in School Bus Safety Special Investigation Report”

NTSB: School Bus Safety

NTSB, Special Investigation Report [Synopsis], School Bus Transportation Safety, Baltimore, Maryland, November 1, 2016, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, November 21, 2016

DLS Releases Results of Carroll Schools Audit

The Department of Legislative Services’ (DLS) audit of the financial practices of Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS) found a total of 13 findings that require recommendations. The purpose of the audit was to evaluate whether CCPS’ procedures and controls are effective in accounting for and protecting its assets and whether its policies provide for the most efficient use of financial resources.

The audit disclosed that CCPS needs to improve accountability and internal controls in several areas including payroll processing, student activity funds, and equipment inventory. DLS recommends that CCPS ensure schools properly control cash receipts by implementing and enforcing accountability measures and conduct periodic audits of schools with significant school activity funds.

DLS also identified specific security risks on CCPS’ computer systems and network. For example, the network is not sufficiently protected against malware. The network is also vulnerable when it comes to protecting personally identifiable information. DLS recommends that CCPS implement protection against untrusted traffic entering the network and restrict access of third party connections into the CCPS network.

According to the Carroll County Times:

Despite more than a dozen recommendations, CCPS Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said the school system has known about many of the recommendations and has been working to fix them.

“Overall, we’re pleased that these recommendations were relatively minor. There were no surprises,” Guthrie said.

Other recommendations include ensuring that the necessary parental approvals for Medicaid billings are obtained and that all allowable Medicaid reimbursement is sought for eligible students, implementing a process that provides for the independent review of payroll adjustments, making sure that the equipment inventory records accurately include all equipment owned by CCPS, and ensuring that all annual financial disclosure forms are properly completed and reviewed by the ethics panel, as required.

Read the full article for more information.