Baltimore City Announces Mayor’s Scholars Program

On Wednesday, December 13th Baltimore City Mayor Catherine E. Pugh joined Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) President and CEO Dr. Gordon F. May and Baltimore City Public Schools’ CEO Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises to launch the Mayor’s Scholars Program. In August, Mayor Pugh announced free tuition at Baltimore City Community College for all 2018 seniors graduating from public schools.

According to a press release,

The Mayor’s Scholars Program is established on the basis of providing more accessible higher education. When cost barriers are eliminated, youth are more likely to pursue and obtain a degree and achieve meaningful, competitive employment. This, in turn, leads to greater economic opportunity, which ultimately breaks the cycle of poverty and violence.

“Every student should know that cost does not have to be a barrier when they choose better for themselves, and it starts with coordination among public schools and anchor institutions to make college and financial aid accessible, once and for all,” said Mayor Pugh.

The Mayor’s Scholars Program covers tuition for Associate’s Degree and Certified Job Training Programs, giving Baltimore City graduating seniors a clear path to success.

Read the full press release for more information.

Panel Highlights Successful Collaborations by County Corrections at #MACoCon

At 2017 MACo Winter Conference session “No Jail is an Island” audience members learned about the partnerships local jails have generated to provide comprehensive and successful programs behind the walls and within the communities inmates will return to.

From left to right: Council Member Jennifer Williams, George Kaloroumakis
From left to right: Council Member Jennifer Williams, George Kaloroumakis

George Kaloroumakis, Director of the Wicomico County Department of Corrections put it best that local jails were like “a community within a community, with the same structure as a small municipality.” Kaloroumakis set the stage by providing an overview of  the array of services and programs local jails offer in collaboration with state, local, and community entities for the roughly 9,138 inmates in the county jails. He noted that about 60% of that population are known to mental health providers and over 85% have a substance abuse issue.

Guy Merritt, Chief of Community Corrections for the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections discussed the importance of understanding where people are going for help and how they are receiving it before reaching out to potential partners to address gaps in services. Merritt presented specifically about how Prince George’s County is creating a service umbrella by working through MOUs to better share info with other county agencies that provide public safety, health, housing, human services. The jail’s biggest collaborators include the department of social services and the local health department.

Russell Wright, Ordinance Road Correctional Center Education Liaison and Anne Arundel Community College Corrections Education Coordinator, spoke about the Success Through Education Program (STEP). STEP is a collaboration between Anne Arundel Community College and Anne Arundel County Department of Detention Facilities to provide inmates with academics, workforce development, life-skills, and computer literacy to help inmates return to their communities as productive members of society. Participants receive one day off their sentence for every day successfully spent in class. This intense (teachers spend 90% of their time with 90% of the students) and fast-paced program (5 week sessions) has generated 924 GEDs.

This session moderated by Talbot County Council President Jennifer Williams and held on Wednesday, December 7. The MACo Winter Conference was held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme was  “The Power of Partnership.”

County Leaders Focus on School Funding at #MACoCon

During the 2017 MACo Winter Conference roundtable discussion “The Next Round of School Funding Debates,” attendees heard the latest updates on the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, which is charged with making policy and funding recommendations for Maryland’s public education system.

Montgomery County Councilmember, Craig Rice

Montgomery County Councilmember, Craig Rice and Allegany County Commissioner, William Valentine, MACo’s representatives on the Commission, led the discussion.

Allegany County Commissioner, William Valentine

Commissioner Valentine and Councilmember Rice emphasized MACo’s position that any recommendations made by the Commission be fair and equitable to all twenty-four jurisdictions, and that no recommendations result in a “winners and losers” situation for Maryland counties.

Valentine and Rice also confirmed that the Commission would not have time to reach a final set of recommendations by December. This derails widely held expectations that its recommendations, translated into proposed legislation, would become a major centerpiece of the 2018 session of the General Assembly.

The session was moderated by MACo’s Executive Director Michael Sanderson and was held on Wednesday, December 6. The MACo Winter Conference was December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year’s conference theme was “The Power of Partnership.”

Improvements Are In Site for the State’s School Construction Program

In MACo’s Winter Conference General Session, Set Your Sites: Strategies for Building Better Schools, Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh spoke with the Chair of the 21st Century School Facilities Commission, Martin Knott about the Commission’s work and upcoming report, while sharing a county perspective on the best path to building better public schools.

Anne Arundel County Executive Schuh shares the methods behind’s his county’s progress in school construction at the Maryland Association of Counties Conference.

County Executive Schuh described how Anne Arundel County has made progress on school construction, and set forth ideas that would help all county governments.

Schuh described how in Anne Arundel, the County extended the life of bonds issued for school construction from 20 to 30 years, thereby increasing available funding by up to 35%.

He raised the idea of using the Maryland Green Building Council to review school construction projects, eliminating the expense of attaining a LEED certification, while still maintaining the same environmental standards. He also suggested revisions to emergency sheltering regulations for school construction that do not always align with local emergency management shelter plans.

He noted the size of today’s schools as compared with their predecessors, and asked about the education specifications that the State uses to guide school structures.

Chairman Knott responded to Schuh’s questions and shared major topics under consideration for the 21st Century School Facilities Commission’s final report, including:

  • Allowing furniture to be a cost eligible for state school construction funding
  • Building a statewide school facility assessment and inventory library
  • Creating a school facility funding authority to issue bonds
  • Developing appropriate flexibility in environmental standards and emergency sheltering requirements for schools
  • Aligning educational programs and facilities through consistent review of the educational specification by the Interagency Committee on School Construction

The 21st Century School Facilities Commission’s decision meeting will be held on December 14th. Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner and Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin are the county government representatives to the Commission.



Op-Ed Urges Kirwan Commission to Consider Race in Education Recommendations

Advocates call on Kirwan Commission to consider policy recommendations informed by race

An opinion piece in The Baltimore Sun advocates for the Kirwan Commission (formally the Commission on Excellence and Innovation in Education) to craft policy recommendations that are informed by race. The co-authors of the op-ed, Erika Seth Davies and Laura Gamble, lament that the Commission has failed to address the role of race in educational outcomes, stating,

There is no mention of race in the building blocks — no mention of known racial disparities in educational outcomes; of the negative impact that decades-long, persistent federal, state and local discriminatory policies and modern-day de facto segregation have had on performance outcomes for the U.S. when comparing our educational system to other nations’.

We call on the commission to embrace the role that it can and should play in erasing race-based disparities in educational outcomes and the allocation of resources so that race can no longer be a predictor of student achievement and success. Only then can we truly hope for change in outcomes for all students.

For more information, see the full opinion piece in The Baltimore SunMd. Kirwan Commission must consider race in education recommendations and previous Conduit Street coverage of the Kirwan Commission.

Six Maryland Public Schools Earn State Blue Ribbons

Six Maryland public schools have been selected as 2017-18 Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools. All six were selected as an Exemplary High Performing School, one of the U.S. Department of Education’s two categories. The schools are being honored before the Maryland State Board of Education.

According to a press release:

The schools are:

  • West Towson Elementary School, Baltimore County
  • Urbana Elementary School, Frederick County
  • Fallston Middle School, Harford County
  • Waterloo Elementary School, Howard County
  • Bannockburn Elementary School, Montgomery County
  • Luxmanor Elementary School, Montgomery County

“Each one of these schools is laser-focused on student success, and the results speak for themselves,” said Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools. “Creative teachers work with engaged and dedicated administrators, parents and the community to develop strong learning environments for their students. We will be proud to nominate these schools for National Blue Ribbon honors.”

The schools will be invited by the U.S. Department of Education to apply to be National Blue Ribbon Schools. With underwriting and gift sponsors, each school will receive a Maryland Blue Ribbon Flag, a monetary prize, $1000 in office supplies, interactive technology equipment, and a school Congratulations Party. A dinner in Annapolis will be held in honor of the winning schools on March 12, 2018. On that date, each Blue Ribbon School will be honored by the Maryland House of Delegates and the Senate.

Read the full press release for more information.

Public Safety, Voter Registration Among ACLU of Maryland 2018 Priorities





Representatives from MACo and the ACLU of Maryland meet on November 27, 2017, to discuss their respective legislative initiatives for the 2018 Session. A 2018 Session Priorities Handout provided by ACLU Maryland identified six key issues that the organization will focus on:

  1. Election Day Registration (allow voters to register and vote on the same day)
  2. Pre-Trial Justice (preserve existing judicial rules that disfavors cash bail, prohibits unaffordable bail requirements, and prevents bail from being used for public safety)
  3. Taking the Politics Out of Parole (remove the Governor’s role in the parole determination process)
  4. Solitary Confinement (“Restrictive Housing”) Reform (reform the usage and duration of administrative or disciplinary segregation of inmates and mentally ill detainees)
  5. Criminal Justice Reporting (create a task force, including local government representation, that would standardize how race and ethnicity is reported in public safety situations)
  6. Public Funding of Private and Religious Schools (restrict the use of public monies for funding private schools)

The sheet listed a number of secondary issues, such as access to justice and transparency, where the ACLU of Maryland will be active during the 2018 Session. The ACLU of Maryland will certainly take a position on MACo’s Public Information Act (PIA) reform initiative. The group opposed MACo’s PIA body camera initiative in 2016 and 2017 but has worked with MACo on other issues.

ACLU Maryland 2018 Session Priorities Handout

ACLU of Maryland Website

Preview the 2018 Session “Big Picture”

A compilation of Issue Papers previews major fiscal and policy issues facing the General Assembly in the year ahead. This resource is a handy guide to the top issues that your legislators will be tackling in the year ahead – a great preparation document for county officials in advance of meetings with their local Delegations.

Developed by the Department of Legislative Services, the 2018 Issue Papers are an annual staple for the Annapolis policy-inclined population. They are also a great resource for county officials tracking specific issues, or interested in the state budget and other top-tier topics.

Here are a few direct links to hot topics that may interest counties:

Operating Budget

Transportation Trust Fund

Pension Issues

Capital Budget and Debt

Education Aid and Maintenance of Effort

School Construction

Health Care Reform

Broadband Access

Public Safety

Environmental Issues

Aid to Local Governments

9-1-1 Funding and Modernization

Educating Over Lunch, Lunching Over Education at #MACoCon

Education funding reform is a hot topic this year. At the MACo Winter Conference, representatives from Maryland’s large counties will digest more than just a delicious lunch at their annual MACo Large County Coalition Winter Conference Luncheon – they will also take in updates on the work of the 21st Century School Facilities Commission (Knott Commission) and the Maryland Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education (Kirwan Commission).

In addition, Senator Jim Rosapepe will present legislation he plans to introduce this

Senator Jim Rosapepe

session to reform the State’s school construction process and increase the financial capacity of local jurisdictions to build and renovate schools.

The MACo Large County Coalition Winter Conference Luncheon takes place on Thursday, December 7 from 11:45 am to 1 pm. RSVPs are requested to Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin at or 301-952-3820.

Study up on all things education funding by listening to MACo’s podcast.

The MACo Winter Conference will be held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. The conference’s theme is “The Power of Partnership.”

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference:

Maryland Apprenticeship Program On the Rise

State Looks to Expand Apprenticeships and Job-Training Programs

In an effort to expand apprenticeships in Maryland, Frederick County Public Schools and Washington County Public Schools are serving as pilot programs for Apprenticeship Maryland, a program designed to train young people and help employers hire skilled workers.

According to the Herald-Mail:

“The schools have been administering the program since mid-2016. They have seen firsthand that apprenticeships work, and they know the good they do for our state’s youth,” Maryland Labor Secretary Kelly M. Schulz said in a news release. “FCPS wants a larger role in that work, and we are happy to facilitate that.”

Under Apprenticeship Maryland, juniors and seniors are hired as apprentices by eligible employers. They work at least 450 hours. They earn a high school diploma and a state skill certificate.

Tweaks to the program have already allowed for more help to the schools and employers. Secretary Schulz notes that while the pilots are still being evaluated, it is already evident that flexibility will be key should the program be expanded statewide.

Read the full article for more information.