DHCD Grants Wash Co $50K for After School Programming

The Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development has granted Washington County $51,455 for after-school youth programming. 

The grant, a part of the Community Development Block Grant Funds, will enable the Hagerstown YMCA to provide affordable after-school programming to families in the county.

The Washington County press release reports:

The Hagerstown Y believes that all kids have great potential. Our staff work hard every day to help them set and achieve personal and educational goals. With so many demands on today’s families, they need all the support they can get to nurture the potential of each and every child. Our after-school enrichment programs, such as the one started this school year in Hancock, focus on nurturing children’s development by providing a safe and healthy place to learn, develop healthy relationships and build confidence.

– Maria Rubeling, CEO of the Hagerstown YMCA

With the grant, the YMCA will be able to provide a subsidy for families in need, based on household income. The YMCA’s goal is to provide a “meaningful experience” for families with children that cannot afford quality after-school programming.

MACo Announces 2019 Legislative Initiatives

MACo to prioritize education, public health, implied preemption, and NG 9-1-1 in 2019 legislative session. 

MACo’s Legislative Committee voted at their September 12, 2018 meeting to adopt the Association’s four priorities for the 2019 Session. These issues — Continuing State Commitment to Education; Re-Prioritizing Public Health; Repeal “Implied” Preemption Doctrine; and Next Generation 9-1-1 Implementation — cover a broad range of important county concerns that MACo will proactively advocate for in front of the General Assembly.

Each year MACo adopts a slate of top legislative initiatives, typically representing the wide swath of services counties deliver to Maryland residents. The Initiatives Subcommittee meets through the summer to refine and focus a list of dozens of proposed initiatives into no more than four as required by the Association’s bylaws. The slate is then presented to the Legislative Committee for adoption. With the upcoming election in November and potential changes in local elected officials serving on the Legislative Committee, the 2019 Legislative Committee will also discuss and vote to approve the initiatives again in January.

Continuing State Commitment to Education

Maryland’s commitment to Pre-K – 12 education must continue to meet the needs of a diverse student body, and to prepare Maryland’s children for a global economy.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education will recommend major shifts in the relative role of state and local funding in each of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions. At the same time, the 21st Century School Facilities Commission and its legislative outcomes recommended an increased annual State contribution for capital projects, and required ongoing study of school construction project funding and priorities.

MACo advocates for a partnership approach to meeting the education and facility needs of Maryland’s students that fairly balances state responsibilities with local obligations, and seeks equitable and efficient solutions to meet current expenses and future goals. 

Re-prioritizing Public Health

Local Health Departments are the state’s frontline for public health services and education. Over the years, dramatic and lasting funding reductions as well as threatened cost shifts have endangered their capacity to provide these crucial services in our communities and have forced them to do more with dramatically fewer resources.

These cuts have been exacerbated by the opioid epidemic that continues to plague the state. The deadliness of the opioids that have permeated our communities makes it even more critical that local health departments and associated treatment services – beds, facilities, providers – are available to meet our residents’ needs on-demand.

MACo advocates to prioritize public health in the face of the opioid epidemic and crises to come by reviving local health department funding and targeting drug treatment funding to address demand where it is needed most.

Repeal “Implied Preemption” Court Doctrine

Maryland courts have adopted an inconsistent but growing theory of State preemption over local actions – finding that counties may be preempted even without any State law explicitly stating so. This principle was used years ago to invalidate multiple local tobacco regulations, and more recently on local pesticide oversight, and energy facility siting.

Legislation should specify that preemption should not take place in the courts by mere interpretation, but in the open and accessible lawmaking process, where all stakeholders may be heard on the merits of their arguments.

Next Generation 9-1-1 Implementation

It is time for Maryland to move to the Next Generation of 9-1-1 (NG911) service. Maryland’s current 9-1-1 Call Centers need additional support to accurately and expeditiously handle an increasing number of cell phone-based calls for emergency service. In addition, local call centers in Maryland are seeking to offer potential service enhancements for cell phone users, including video and text messaging, and improved location tracking accuracy.

Updating state laws, and the 9-1-1 financing system, to provide the flexibility and resources needed for this important step is a public safety priority affecting every part of Maryland. 


Conduit Street Podcast: Keeping up with Kirwan

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Michael Sanderson and Kevin Kinnally discuss the latest news from the [Kirwan] Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, including new recommendations on how to best provide more resources for at-risk students, and explain why the Commission may refrain from issuing recommendations on some of the most critical components of education funding in Maryland.

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: Kirwan Commission Aims to Revamp “At-Risk” Funding Formulas

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Kirwan Commission Begins Finalizing Recommendations

Conduit Street Podcast: Conduit Street Podcast: Digging Deeper on “Elevating Teaching,” Candidate Shuffle, & More!

You Are What You Eat (At School)

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has awarded $3,288,950 in federal funds to selected Maryland elementary schools in order to help children build lifelong healthy eating habits.

According to a press release:

The funds, made available by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), will provide fresh fruits and vegetables to students enrolled in participating schools statewide. This year, MSDE is providing funds to 134 schools. Maryland school participation data can be found here.

The FFVP targets schools with a high percentage of low-income students who often have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Students are provided a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, at no charge, outside the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs. The FFVP teaches students that fresh produce can be a healthy and delicious snack. Additionally, the program provides an opportunity for teachers and school administrators to provide experiential nutrition education.

One of the goals of the program is to act as a catalyst for change by teaching students to accept and enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The produce served through the program often includes fruits and vegetables that may not be available to children living in low-income communities, including kiwi, mangos, mushrooms, and asparagus.

A national study of the program conducted by Abt Associates found that students participating in the FFVP consumed significantly more fruits and vegetables than their peers. Schools participating in the program were also more likely to offer regular nutrition education to students.

Read the full press release for more information.

Feds Announce Pre-K Funding Grant

The Preschool Development Grant is aimed to help states and localities develop a mixed delivery system to serve children from birth through age five, and their families.

As reported by the National Association of Counties,

Earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 omnibus bill which included the largest ever increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the nation’s largest federal child care assistance program. In addition to CCDBG’s increase in funding, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced a new funding opportunity for states and localities – the Preschool Development Grant (PDG) – which help states and localities develop a mixed delivery system to serve children from birth through age five, and their families.

Counties provide essential services to families with young children, but many localities struggle with insufficient funding. With the introduction of these new funding opportunities, it is critical to understand how counties can engage these new resources to maximize outcomes for children and their families.

Upcoming NACo webinar: New funding opportunities for counties to strengthen early care and learning programs

September 19, 2 pm

Join NACo for a webinar to hear from the HHS’ Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) Office of Child Care about these new resources and how counties can work with their state to gain access to these dollars to support their residents. To learn more about and register for the webinar, click here.

Webinar Speaker: Shannon Christian, Director, Office of Child Care, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Kirwan Commission Aims to Revamp “At-Risk” Funding Formulas

The [Kirwan] Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its most recent meeting today in Annapolis. Known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, the Commission heard recommendations on how to best improve educational outcomes for at-risk students.

In addition to the wealth adjusted per-pupil foundation amount, school systems currently receive supplemental aid for every child who needs additional resources to receive a high-quality education.

There are three at-risk programs:

  • Compensatory Program: The compensatory program is designed to provide extra support to students coming from backgrounds of poverty. For every student who qualifies for Free and Reduced Price Meals, school systems receive an amount equal to 97% of their per-pupil foundation.
  • Limited English Proficiency: For every student who is learning English as a second language, school systems receive an amount equal to 99% of their per-pupil foundation.
  • Special Education: For every student receiving special education services, school systems receive an amount equal to 74% of their per-pupil foundation.

In order to provide more resources for at-risk students, the Commission’s preliminary report recommends that schools with large numbers of low-income students, English language learners and special education students receive extra weight in the public school funding formula. The More Resources for At-Risk Students working group, one of four working groups tasked with costing out the Commission’s preliminary recommendations, today presented its findings to the full Commission. (Click here to read recommendations from working group’s 1-3).

Concentrated Poverty

Following a period of decline after 2003, the number of children living in poverty has grown substantially in Maryland since the Great Recession of 2007-08. In 2015, 14% of Maryland children under age 18 were living in poverty; that figure was 34% in Baltimore City. The overwhelming majority of these children attend public schools. More than half of public schools (almost 60%) across the State now have 40% or more of their students eligible for a free or reduced-price meal, which is based on 185% of the federal poverty level.

The working group recommends adding a “concentrated poverty” weight to the funding formula to support intensive services for students and their families to enable them to succeed in school and able to meet the additional needs of students in schools located in distressed communities.

Joy Shaefer, moderator of the More Resources for At-Risk Students working group and member of the Frederick County Board of Education, stressed the need for additional funding for schools with concentrated poverty. “Concentration of poverty is a school issue, and it affects every student in the school, regardless of what their socioeconomic status may be,” she said.

The additional funding would be provided for each school in which (yet to be determined) percentage of students qualify for free and reduced-price meals. But each school would have to submit an implementation plan based on an assessment of need.

A fixed amount would be provided for each school in which at least (yet to be determined) of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. This fixed funding would be used to hire a community schools coordinator and a health services practitioner.

In addition to the fixed amount of funding would be an amount per student enrolled at the school. This per pupil funding (in combination with the compensatory education funding formula) could be used to provide additional programs and services.

Local school systems must demonstrate that funds provided under the weight are being provided to the schools in which the weight is applicable and are being used for the purpose of implementing the plans. Local governments would be expected to demonstrate support through meaningful partnership and support that is supplemental to and does not supplant existing efforts.

Special Education Students

State and federal law require school systems to identify, locate, and evaluate all students who have or are suspected of having disabilities and in need of special education and related services.

To provide special education resources, local school systems spend more than the current funding formula provides.

Total State and local expenditures on special education equaled $1.567 billion in fiscal 2015. Of this, the State provided $272 million, or 17.3% of the total. Counties accounted for the remaining $1.296 billion.

The working group recommends a weight of 2.18 as the “stop–gap” weight until the completion of the special education study required by HB 1415 (2018) and until any recommendations of the study are implemented in law.

This weight is calculated based on the fiscal 2015 foundation per pupil base of $6,860. For context, the weight in current law is 0.74. The weight will be recalculated once the Commission determines a new foundation base such that an equivalent amount of State funds are generated as the weight of 2.18 would generate.

The result of this stop-gap weight is that State funding, in fiscal 2015 dollars, increases by 195% from $272 million to $800 million. This increases the State proportion of expenditures from 17% to 51%.

Because a special education study is due by December 2019, the new weight may be revised again in response to the study recommendations. It is anticipated that the placeholder weight recommended by the Commission may be in place for up to 3 years while the completed study is being reviewed and incorporated into State law.

Although school districts will have discretion in repurposing approximately $529 million in local funds, they are encouraged to reinvest a portion back into special education as appropriate to provide a robust level of services to meet the needs of the special education students.

Commissioner Kalman Hettleman, who sits on the working group, expressed concerns with the recommendations. “I voted against the proposed weight because I didn’t think it came close to achieving adequacy … At best, it represents a 33% increase for special education. These students are the most disadvantaged, vulnerable, and neglected,” he said.

English Learner Students

Because most English learner students also qualify for compensatory education funding, the compensatory education weight will provide for academic and social/emotional supports. Therefore, the weight as recommended by APA Consulting is only reflective of the resources needed to specifically support language acquisition.

According to the working group, in addition to what APA recommended, the English learner weight should be increased to provide a family liaison. The family liaison could provide translation services for communication between school personnel and parents through a bilingual liaison, cultural competency training for school personnel, other family support and family engagement, and referrals to outside resources that a school may not be able to directly provide.

Next Steps

The Kirwan Commission is soliciting public comment on the recommendations from each of the four working groups. All comments must be submitted to the Commission by September 14, 2018. After considering public input, the chair will work with staff and consultants to develop a draft cost estimate based on the recommendations of the working groups for the full Commission’s consideration.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission. MACo is entitled to two representatives on the Commission, under the legislation.

The Commission was originally set to complete its work in time for the 2018 session of the General Assembly, but last October asked for an extension when it became clear the deadline was not realistic. Prior to breaking for the 2018 legislative session, the Commission released a preliminary report detailing its preliminary recommendations.

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Chair, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Vice Chair, represent MACo on the Commission.

Materials from today’s meeting are available on the Department of Legislative Services website, and the meetings viewable online by searching the House Appropriations Committee room on the dates of each meeting.

The Commission’s next meeting will be held on Friday, September 21, 2018; 9:30 am-5:00 pm, at 120 House Office Building (House Appropriations Committee Room), 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Kirwan Commission Begins Finalizing Recommendations

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Kirwan Commission Considers Major Pay Increase for Teachers

Conduit Street Podcast: Digging Deeper on “Elevating Teaching,” Candidate Shuffle, & More!

Hogan Executive Order Aims for More School Accountability

Governor Larry Hogan today issued an executive order establishing the Office of Education Accountability to investigate allegations of fraud and mismanagement in Maryland’s public schools. The governor also vowed to reintroduce legislation in the 2019 session of the Maryland General Assembly to create an independent Investigator General to investigate allegations of fraud and mismanagement in Maryland’s public schools.

Executive Order

According to Governor Hogan, the Office of Education Accountability is an “independent watchdog unit responsible for analyzing, coordinating, and providing recommendations on matters including procurement improprieties, abuse, neglect, safety, grade fixing, graduation requirements, assessments, educational facilities, and budgetary issues.”

Hogan said the executive order is in response to widespread accountability concerns from parents, students, and teachers involving school systems across the state due to allegations of wrongdoing, corruption, and mismanagement. “There is a persistent and alarming lack of accountability in local school systems across the state, and it cannot, and will not be tolerated by this administration,” he said.

Valerie Radomsky, who currently serves as the chief education policy advisor to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, has been tapped to serve as Director of the Office of Education Accountability. Staff will be provided by the Governor’s Office for Children.

The executive order also directs the Governor’s Office for Children to establish an electronic tip system to allow anonymous reporting of concerns about Maryland’s public school systems.

Currently, school boards are held accountable for sound financial management through multiple annual audits and routine, comprehensive legislative audits. School systems not complying with state requirements can have state funding withheld by the State Superintendent.

Accountability in Education Act of 2019

Governor Hogan also announced that his administration will introduce the Accountability in Education Act of 2019 to create an Office of the State Education Investigator General, which will be an independent unit within the Maryland State Department of Education.

The Investigator General will be selected by a commission consisting of appointees by the Senate President, Speaker of the House, and the governor, and will be charged with investigating complaints of unethical, unprofessional, or illegal conduct relating to procurement, education assets, graduation requirements, grading, education facilities, and school budgets.

The proposal mirrors legislation introduced, but not passed, earlier this year.

Useful Links

Read the full Executive Order online at the Governor’s website.

Read the full press release online at the Governor’s website.

Report: Maryland on Cutting Edge of School Safety

As students ready to head back to school this week, a newly-released report from the Department of State Police and Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention says Maryland is ahead of the curve on school safety.

SB 1265, Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018, passed the General Assembly on the final day of the 2018 legislative session and was signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan. The legislation will act as a blueprint for improving school safety in Maryland.

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.

The FY 2019 operating budget allocates $40.6 million in operating and capital funds to improve school safety. The State has also made more than $37 million in grant funding available for local school systems to enhance school security.

According to The Frederick News-Post:

The passing of the bill, which went into effect June 1, consolidated school safety funding and operations into the Maryland Center for School Safety and. the Interagency Commission on School Construction, diverging from Maryland Department of State Police and the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, a move the report stated as “reasonable” but also making it “premature to draw any conclusions on the effectiveness of the changes.”

The report added that due to funding changes, schools should become “a great deal safer in the near future.”

“Although this report was designed to answer the need for guidance on the future of school safety initiatives, the Maryland General Assembly in concert with the administration took the lead by proposing specific legislation to address the need,” the report stated.

Read the full article for more information.

Useful Links

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

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: State Board Hears Update on School Safety Initiatives

Arizona Court Strikes “Invest in Ed” Initiative from November Ballot

The Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a ballot initiative that would have raised income taxes on Arizona’s wealthiest residents to increase funding for schools across the state, a blow to teachers and public school advocates in Arizona.

The court said that the wording of the “Invest in Ed” ballot initiative was confusing. According to the Court, initiative petition signers were not informed that the measure would do more than increase the tax rate on people earning more than $250,000 a year. It also would eliminate the indexing of income tax brackets to account for inflation.

The announcement is a blow to teachers and public school advocates in Arizona, not only because of the removal of the initiative, but because of the possibility that voters inclined toward supporting public schools, in general, may stay home on Election Day.

According to The Arizona Daily Star:

“I hope that people don’t go, ‘Oh, this isn’t on the ballot, I’m not going to participate in November,’” said Joshua Buckley, chairman of the Invest in Ed initiative and a Mesa teacher. “I’m hoping that educators and public school advocates are still fired up.”

Wednesday’s ruling is a victory for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which led and financed the legal fight to block a public vote on the initiative.

Chamber president Glenn Hamer argued that increasing income taxes on the wealthiest Arizonans “would just create a drag on the state’s overall economy.”

The proposal would have imposed an 8 percent state income tax on earnings of more than $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples, a significant increase of the current rate of 4.54 percent. The initiative would have also imposed a 9 percent tax rate on income over $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for married couples filing jointly.

Education advocates estimated that the additional taxes would generate about $690 million a year for public education.

Maryland voters in November will decide whether to approve a mechanism to prohibit the state from spending casino revenues on anything other than K-12 education. The ballot question will ask voters to approve of putting a “lockbox” on casino money (around $500M per year), requiring it to be used for education above the amount set by state formulas.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Legislature Leadership Proposes Legislation to #FixtheFund

Read the full article from The Arizona Daily Star

Conduit Street Podcast: Digging Deeper on “Elevating Teaching,” Candidate Shuffle, & More!

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Michael Sanderson and Kevin Kinnally discuss the latest news from the Kirwan Commission, including new recommendations on pre-K, teacher pay, and college and career readiness, and explain the process for replacing a candidate for public office in the event they decline their party’s nomination, which is exactly what happened this week in Prince George’s County

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: Kirwan Commission Begins Finalizing Recommendations

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Kirwan Commission Considers Major Pay Increase for Teachers

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Mathis Drops Out of Prince George’s County Executive Race, Will Endorse Alsobrooks