Wednesday, January 22, 2020
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Md. General Assembly adjourns sine die

Having no more business to conduct, the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates adjourned on Monday, April 13, sine die, the Washington Post reports.

Only a few bills passed in this legislative session related to education, as Gov Larry Hogan had laid down a path that focused on bipartisanship and a business-friendly environment for Marylanders when he first took office earlier this year.

But despite preaching bipartisanship since his election, he ultimately rejected compromises that Democratic lawmakers thought he’d wanted, Maryland observed. For example, his proposed budget included a tax exemption for the full pensions earned by military personnel; what passed was a mere $10,000 income tax exemption on their pensions.

Education-related bills headed to the governor

(1) SB 595: Charter school reform

Mr Hogan announced in his State of the State address that he wanted a massive reform of charter school laws in Maryland:

I believe that every child in Maryland deserves a world-class education, regardless of what neighborhood they grow up in. We must fix our under-performing schools while also giving parents and children realistic and better alternatives. So, let’s expand families’ choices. Let’s encourage more public charter schools to open and operate in Maryland. [The legislation I propose would] expand choices for families and make it easier for more public charter schools to operate in Maryland.

SB 595, which passed by overwhelming majorities after amendments had been added, makes a few small changes that allow charters to have some say on who attends the schools and permits some charters to be exempt from specific scheduling, curriculum, and professional development requirements. But SB 595, as amended and passed, is dramatically different from what Mr Hogan had wanted, and he doesn’t sound very supportive of the bill that’s headed to his desk.

WMDT (ABC affiliate) reported that the governor’s special adviser, Keiffer Mitchell, said the administration was concerned some of the amendments could limit flexibility, which the governor believes is necessary for charter schools to develop. For example, the bill fails to establish a state charter school board that would have the authority to overrule the decision of a local school district to deny the application from a charter school.

By extension, that “removes a governor’s authority to impact charter school decisions through his or her appointments to the board,” Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform, said in a press release. Also, because the bill, if signed by Mr Hogan, would force charter schools to comply with what she called “an invasive study by the State Department of Education,” she said the bill “was clearly an effort by opponents to tie up small, underfunded charter schools with more bureaucracy, not less.”

(2) SB 497: Standardized test commission

The governor will also have the opportunity to sign into law a bill that creates a commission to study how many standardized tests Maryland students take. There’s not much controversy here—high school students in Maryland take lots of standardized tests—but if the government needs an official version of those reports, this is the way.

The 19-member commission will complete its study in about a year and then have until October 2016 to report its findings not just to the state but to local boards of education as well. Findings will include, for each federal, state, or local test students are required to take, the following information:

  1. the title of the assessment
  2. the purpose of the assessment
  3. if the assessment is a local, state, or federal assessment
  4. the grade level to which the test is administered
  5. the subject area of the assessment
  6. the testing window of the assessment
  7. how long a student has to complete the assessment
  8. if the assessment requires a change in the school schedule

Mr Hogan hasn’t made any statements about the bill on the record, but it passed the Senate 46-0 and the House of Delegates 138-0. He’ll probably sign it.

On Signing Day, Mr Hogan will not see bills that:

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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  1. In urging Gov Larry Hogan to sign the charter school bill as approved, the editorial board of the Baltimore Sun writes, “Charter schools aren’t a panacea, and they aren’t inherently better than traditional schools. But the best of them have shown real success in educating students who might otherwise have fallen behind, and in general they provide parents and students with the ability to choose a school whose philosophy meets their needs.

    “Mr. Hogan managed single handedly to put charter schools onto the General Assembly’s agenda, and it should not come as a surprise that it would take him more time to build public and political support for his proposals. We hope he will use this year’s legislation as a building block for more reform in the years ahead.”

    Read the full editorial here.

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