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Maryland lawmakers should provide more guidance and flexibility to county governments as they work to find space in tight budgets for far-reaching public education reforms, a leading advocacy group said.
The Maryland Association of Counties made a series of recommendations to ease pressures on the effort to implement the 10-year Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform plan in a recent letter addressed to Gov. Wes Moore (D) and the legislature’s presiding officers.
“The Blueprint applies a one-size-fits-all approach to education investment and implementation that does not account for our state’s diverse local government capacities, processes, and abilities,” according to the letter signed by MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball (D), president of the organization. “As we move deeper into implementation, the diverse systems, constraints, and structures counties must work within become more apparent, especially financially.”
Sanderson said in an interview Monday that the goal is not to go back and legislate the Blueprint law, but to inform lawmakers and the public of the continuing challenges to funding the Blueprint on a local level.
One proposal, Sanderson said, is for the legislature to provide a more comprehensive cost analysis detailing how much Blueprint funding is mandated in local budgets. In addition, that analysis should take into account fluctuating school enrollments, he said.
Some counties received notice about how much money would be needed for Blueprint reforms in the next year just a week before budgets were approved last spring, Sanderson said. Most county officials release preliminary budgets between December and February. The General Assembly’s 90-day session is set to begin Jan. 10.
“What we tried to do was harvest the things we’ve been hearing at the local level,” he said. “The idea of more clarity in the funding projections and estimates and having that in a more timely and clear way [helps] everybody…as they go through their budgeting process.”
The Blueprint plan continues to be implemented based on its priorities: expanding early childhood education, hiring and retaining high-quality and diverse teachers, preparing students for college and technical careers and providing additional resources for students in need.
The Blueprint Accountability and Implement Board, an independent body established by the legislature to oversee the initiative approved some updates this summer. One of the board’s duties is providing recommendations to the General Assembly and the governor on proposed changes to the Blueprint law. The panel is set to meet next on Thursday.
The Blueprint law states that schools must implement a $10,000 salary increase for teachers who are designated as National Board Certified, and an additional $7,000 salary increase for certified teachers who work in low-performing schools.
MACo proposes those salary figures should be switched: $7,000 for all teachers certified, and an additional $10,000 for certified teachers in low-performing schools.
Brianna January, associate director of policy for MACo, said there still remains “a universal concern” about a requirement for school systems to raise minimum annual teacher salaries to $60,000, which must be done by July 1, 2026, according to the law.
January said county leaders are concerned the salary increase “will kind of pinch all the other staff positions into an upward trajection for their starting salaries.”
Carter Elliott, a spokesperson for Moore, said in an email Monday that “county leaders are important partners and [the governor] appreciates them stepping up to share their thoughts about the Blueprint and how to ensure its success going forward. The Moore-Miller Administration is looking forward to engaging in further conversation to ensure that all of Maryland’s children have access to a world class education.”
Some of the other MACo recommendations for state leaders are:
- Provide a specific cost analysis between the state and counties to fund dual enrollment programs at community colleges.
- Offer greater flexibility for counties to utilize certain spaces such as libraries and community centers to provide prekindergarten instruction. Such spaces may be available but aren’t an option under the law because each would need “the presence of a school administrator, front desk person, and on-duty nurse.”
- Consider best practices for expedited or alternative teacher certification without lessening the standard for high-quality teachers.
“To best ensure successful implementation of the Blueprint, county governments are seeking a more comprehensive cost analysis and investment from our State partners,” Ball said in an emailed statement. “County governments are funding partners for our local Boards of Education and have minimal oversight on how taxpayer dollars are spent. By having local costs required by the Blueprint clearly defined by the State, and transparently shared with the public, we can all have smoother budget processes and increased collaboration during our annual local budget cycles.”
Some Blueprint supporters, such as Michelle Corkadel, president of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, said equity must remain a focal point in the plan.
The state Board of Education continues to review a possible revision to the “college and career readiness,” or CCR, standards that are part of the Blueprint plan. Current law states that students “meet or exceed” the standard based on standardized test scores. Under the proposal, students could pass the standard if their grade-point average is 3.0 or higher by the end of 10th grade.
Corkadel said there should be a more holistic approach to aide students who have a focus on career programs.
“It seems to me that we should be including more flexibility in the arena of those students who have chosen a career path. We know that the state does not allow you to sit for your cosmetology license, which would be the ultimate in verifying that your college and career ready. It cannot occur until you’re 18 years old,” said Corkadel, a member of the school board in Anne Arundel County, where schools provide cosmetology training. “I do think that closing our opportunity gaps is one of the desired outcomes of Blueprint and we need to make sure that we are mindful of that. We are hopeful that the decisions we make are going to include the perspectives of all of us.”
By William J. Ford
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The last time the Spy chatted with Lorelly Solano a few years ago, she had just begun her work at the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center. And her focus in 2019 was to help the organization train interpreters to help offer bilingual services on the Mid-Shore to various businesses and nonprofit institutions.
One of the schools that Lorelly worked closely with at the time was Chesapeake College, so it was not a surprise to find her almost five years later working with that institution as the new director of its Cambridge Center. As the Mid-Shore continues to grow with a diversity of cultures and languages, Dr. Solano was immediately attracted to the challenge and opportunity of making the Cambridge campus a regional leader in adult education for high school equivalency, English language acquisition for immigrants, and non-credit courses like skilled trades.
In her new role, Solano has made it a goal to mirror the community’s diversity within the Center, ensuring that when people visit, they see themselves represented.
Last month the Spy came by the Cambridge Center to learn more about Dr. Lorelly’s plans.
This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Chesapeake College and its Cambridge Center, please go here.
The Spy Newspapers may periodically employ the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the clarity and accuracy of our content.
Chesapeake College celebrated the opening of the 23-24 academic year with an enrollment increase and a new brand.
Faculty, staff and community stakeholders gathered for the annual State of the College address and a local leader status report where President Clifford P. Coppersmith introduced Chesapeake’s new brand and shared news of a 10 percent increase in credit student enrollment compared to last fall.
“Chesapeake has grown, and our mission has evolved with the world around us in recent years—all while the market for higher education has become increasingly competitive,” Dr. Coppersmith said. “It was essential that we assessed both who we are and how we are perceived to develop a consistent and unified message—not just visually but also in our actions.”
Chesapeake conducted a nationwide competitive bid search for a firm to develop a comprehensive new brand. VisionPoint Marketing of Raleigh, N.C. was awarded the contract. The specialty higher education firm performed the research, analysis, and creative work on Chesapeake’s brand during the last year.
Market analysis and extensive research—including community surveys and focus groups—informed development of the brand pillars and logo. While Chesapeake College used outside firms for logo development in the past, this project marks the first time the college contracted with a vendor to conduct such in-depth research and analysis.
In addition to gathering comments and perceptions from more than 1,200 stakeholders within the service community, VisionPoint led the college through deep self-reflection to build brand pillars on the foundation of the institution’s history, core values and aspirations.
The end result, Dr. Coppersmith said, is a comprehensive brand that pays tribute to Chesapeake’s nearly 60-year history as the educational, cultural and economic development hub for the Mid-Shore.
Chesapeake College Director of Marketing and College Relations Danielle Darling said Chesapeake needed a new brand that that can carry the college into the future,“ Chesapeake’s audiences are vast and diverse. We need a brand that resonates with each of these groups as an authentic representation of the College and to reinforce our unique selling proposition,” Ms. Darling said.
She added, “One of our new branding pillars is ‘connector to what’s next.’ This particular brand pillar has the most value for our students,” Ms. Darling said. “We connect students to high-quality education, to training, to universities, to employment and local industries, personal enrichment, and so much more. This reflects our position at the heart of this region and as the conduit to changing peoples’ lives.”
After all the research and exploratory work were completed, the consultants and the Chesapeake community delved into several visual interpretations of their findings, ultimately moving toward an abstract expression of forward movement, suggestive of the iconic skipjack.
“We didn’t want to have a literal skipjack, we wanted to build on this idea of connection and momentum—of meeting students where they are and getting them to their next destination, moving the community forward, one student at a time—which is really the central story of our brand.” “The idea that the skipjack, historically, was a working-class vessel with strong connections in our region was important as well,” Ms. Darling said. “We wanted to represent that in an abstract way, not only to stand out in an area that uses a great deal of nautical imagery, but to make it unique to Chesapeake College, and more accessible and approachable to our audience.”
Ms. Darling explained the negative space in the icon illustrates the rigging of a skipjack, perfectly symbolizing the connections Chesapeake helps build for its students and the community at large.
The new logo features modern hues of Chesapeake’s traditional blue and green colors, with new shades of gold and orange. A deep coral red rounds out the new brand color palette.
Five segments represent the individual identities and unity of the five counties in Chesapeake’s service region. A bold serif font blends the past and future in Chesapeake’s new visual identity.
When paired with the name “Chesapeake College,” the College becomes the wind pushing the shape forward—the force that moves students and the community forward, connecting them to what’s next.
To explore the new look, visit www.chesapeake.edu/brand
An analysis of Maryland’s current “college readiness” metrics meant to determine whether high school students are properly prepared for college may be improperly assessing a large percentage of students, according to a new report analyzing the state’s interim College and Career Readiness standards.
In fact, as much as 35% to 53% may be inaccurately assessed as either ready for college or not ready for college, the American Institutes for Research’s report to the Maryland State Department of Education found.
The College and Career Readiness (CCR) standard is a central goal for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, an education overhaul passed by the 2021 Maryland General Assembly, in order to determine if students are properly prepared to take on a 2-year or 4-year postsecondary education, and then ultimately enter the workforce.
In 2022, the Maryland Board of Education set up interim CCR standards to lay the groundwork for more-permanent standards down the line. Students are currently evaluated as “college ready” if they surpass benchmarks in 10th grade English and benchmarks in one of the following math courses: algebra 1, algebra 2, or geometry. Students can also earn a score of 520 on the SAT math test to prove college readiness under the interim standards.
The Blueprint also required MSDE to contract with a public or private entity to help evaluate the interim standards and offer suggestions for how they could be improved.
And there appears to be room for improvement, according to the American Institutes for Research (AIR), which is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research facility that was tasked with conducting the analysis. The final report was released on Sept. 14 and the Board of Education discussed the findings at a meeting this week.
“AIR completed a multifaceted, best-in-class investigation into the predictors of postsecondary success and the alignment of high school standards to postsecondary expectations,” State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury, said in a written statement in mid-September. “The study is full of crucial insights into ensuring that Maryland sets a CCR standard that is aligned with national research and ensures equitable access for all students.”
In the coming months, education officials and leaders will be using the study in order to create and approve a new CCR standard.
“To assess the quality of different high school measures of CCR, we examined how well the interim CCR standard and alternative definitions of the standard predicted students’ progress toward postsecondary success, particularly college course credits earned in a student’s first semester in college,” the report said.
One of the caveats for the analysis is that it was conducted on students in graduating classes from 2017 to 2021, and the results “may not apply to future student cohorts,” according to the report. The analysis also did not look at the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) because the assessment was too new at the time of the study.
That said, one of the main takeaways from the report is that the current interim CCR standards often misclassifies students on their readiness.
For example, the analysis says that only 35% of the students in the study were “correctly classified” as ready for college under the interim CCR standards, based on whether a student earned math credit in their first year of post-secondary education. But 5% we’re “misclassified” as ready, as they struggled to earn a math credit in their first year.
Meanwhile, the analysis shows that the current interim standards correctly classified 28% of students as not college ready, but misidentified 32% of students as “not college ready,” when in fact they were able to earn a math credit in their first year.
“So they did not meet CCR standard, but they demonstrated they could earn math credit when they enter college,” Jordan Rickles, the principal researcher for the study, explained to the Board of Education Tuesday. “So this is the big source of error when it comes to the validity of our standard. For almost a third of students, the standards say they’re not college ready, but we have evidence that when they really go off to college, they really can do well in these first year courses.”
The AIR analysis says that the interim standard has an accuracy rate between 47% and 65%, depending on subject matter measured.
To further complicate the analysis, the interim standards were even less accurate for certain demographics, such as for Black students, Hispanic students, current English learners, students with disabilities, and students eligible for free and reduced price meal services. For these populations, the interim CCR standard had average accuracy rates that were less than 60%, the report says.
The analysis looks at potential alternatives for how the state can identify which students are ready for college and which ones could use some additional help. The board will also be looking at the college readiness standards of other states to help inform their future decisions.
The analysis puts forward that it may be more accurate to analyze college readiness through a high school Grade Point Average threshold or the interim CCR standards, meaning that a student could meet either benchmark in order to be deemed college ready.
If the board were to take up that alternate college readiness metric, then the accuracy rate is expected to increase to about 75%, meaning that three in four students would be accurately evaluated as college ready or not.
The analysis suggests that a high school GPA threshold between 2.83 and 2.98 would be a strong indicator of a student’s college readiness, but the AIR recommends rounding up to a 3.0.
The report also advises the department to revise CCR standards to assess more accurately and equitably. That includes providing students with two options to meet CCR standards, either based on state assessments or through a GPA of at least 3.0. If the department takes this route, the MSDE would need to work with local education agencies to better standardize and align grading practices across Maryland.
AIR also recommended that the department help students strengthen college readiness by providing additional counseling and other wrap-around services in middle and fhigh school that cultivate skills and knowledge critical for college success. Such skills include critical thinking, self-direction, and other skills that are not part of formal high school standards.
By Danielle J. Brown
A bequest of $3,000,000 from Carol Ruth Lofstedt’s Revocable Trust to the Talbot County Public Schools Education Foundation established through Mid-Shore Community Foundation will benefit the educators and students of Talbot County Public Schools (TCPS). This bequest is made in memory of Dr. Joyce Arline Goodwin, Ph.D., Ms. Lofstedt’s long-time partner. The gift will be used to “assist teachers who are in need of additional funds for classroom supplies, teaching tools, classroom equipment, and program curriculum” and to “support and encourage innovative teaching and creative learning” as directed in Ms. Lofstedt’s Trust.
Both Ms. Lofstedt, who passed away in January 2022 at the age of 88, and Dr. Goodwin who passed away in 2018, were passionate about education and loved children. “Carol and Joyce were lifelong educators who taught most of their years in the New York City public schools and Bronx Community College in Bronx, New York,” explained JoRhea Nagel Wright, Esq., Trustee of the Lofstedt Trust. “During Joyce’s career as a public school teacher, Carol witnessed first-hand how classroom needs and teacher supplies were frequently underfunded and how often Joyce and her teaching colleagues spent their own money trying to improve their classrooms and offer creative learning experiences for their students.”
Ms. Lofstedt earned a BS/RN from Skidmore College, and an MA in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing/Education from New York University. After graduating from Skidmore College, Carol worked with Parkinson’s patients as a head nurse/assistant supervisor on a surgical unit. She left the hospital to pursue her Master’s degree with a desire to help better meet the emotional needs of her patients. Following graduation from NYU in 1962, she remained there to teach psychiatric mental health nursing to graduate students. She then taught associate degree students and headed the Psychiatric Nursing program at Bronx Community College in Bronx, NY, from 1964 until her retirement in 1991. During that period, Carol was granted a sabbatical and wrote a psychiatric nursing workbook to accompany a psychiatric nursing textbook.
Dr. Goodwin was born in Brooklyn, NY, and spent most of her life in New York State. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Education and a master’s degree in Teaching at Hunter College, and a Ph.D. in education from New York University. Joyce dedicated her life to teaching and reaching out to special needs children. She especially loved middle school-age children and enjoyed sharing stories about the humorous side of teaching, and the achievements, antics, and accomplishments of her students. Having spent most of her career in the New York City public school system, she retired from the Ardsley Public Schools. Joyce and Carol relocated to Talbot County in 2005.
“Carol loved Talbot County and wanted to provide a significant gift to Talbot County Public Schools in honor of Joyce’s legacy which would have a meaningful impact on students and teachers and allow them to focus on creatively educating their students without concern for underfunded classroom needs and lack of school supplies,” Mrs. Wright added.
The TCPS Education Foundation’s mission is “to support public education by raising and distributing funds to fulfill needs and opportunities inspired by TCPS educators and students”. Founded in 2016, the foundation has awarded nearly $200,000 in grants for classroom materials, field trips, fine arts and after-school programs that are not covered in the public budget. They have also funded scholarships, and mental health services for students, and raised more than $100,000 to support connectivity for students during and after the pandemic. Most recently, the Foundation partnered with Easton High Support our Sports and Band, and the Grayce B. Kerr Fund to provide new uniforms for the Easton High Marching Band for the first time since the mid to late 1990’s.
“We are deeply grateful for this transformative gift,” said Debbie Gardner, Director of Communications for TCPS and Administrator of the Education Foundation. “Ms. Lofstedt’s generosity will profoundly impact students and teachers both now and in the future,” added Buck Duncan, President of Mid-Shore Community Foundation. The past and current members of the Education Foundation Board have worked diligently to build an organization that can and will fulfill Ms. Lofstedt’s vision.”
“This gift could not have come at a better time,” explains David Short, CPA and Foundation Board Chair. “We are in the process of completing a new strategic plan. In our stakeholder interviews, it was clear that teachers and students need additional support, sometimes for even the most basic of supplies. Thus, the spirit of this gift speaks directly to the needs of our schools. Not only will we work to get these funds into the classroom, but we hope that this gift encourages others to join in and support us, so that we can continue to fund the needs of teachers and classrooms in Talbot County at a higher level into the future. On behalf of the Talbot County Public Schools Education Foundation Board, I share my appreciation for this bequest, which will make an enormous impact in Talbot County classrooms.”
The Education Foundation invites the community to join them in celebrating public education and supporting our teachers at their annual fundraising event, Mission Possible, which will take place on November 17 at 5:30 p.m. at the Oxford Community Center. The Talbot County Public Schools Education Foundation Funds are component funds of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, a public foundation designated as a 501(c)(3) charity. Gifts to the Funds are fully tax-deductible as allowable by law (EIN: 52-1782373). To learn more or to make a donation visit www.tcpsef.org.
As part of our ongoing conversations about public education on the Mid-Shore, we sat down with Queen Anne’s County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia Saelens, last month for an update of that county’s challenges and opportunities as one of the most robust public school systems in the state of Maryland.
One example of this distinction was the news this week that U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recognized Church Hill Elementary School and Matapeake Elementary School as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2023. Those two schools beat out more than 9,000 schools nationwide to make that list.
That kind of recognition is common for QAC schools. Year after year, the school district continues outperforming other schools on both the Eastern and Western Shore.
And yet, as Dr. Saelens notes in our Spy interview, it’s not always peachy even in QAC. After taking the job in the middle of the COVID crisis, which Saelens considers the most challenging years of her professional life, she and her peers are still having to find their way in negotiating the unanticipated challenges that have come with the implication of the state’s Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. In our chat, the superintendent highlights the positives and negatives of the multi-billion dollar effort to improve public education, including the funding formula and its impact on county budgeting.
This video is approximately ten minutes in length.
Today, the Maryland State Board of Education and Maryland State Department of Education announced the names of the seven finalists who will compete to be named the 2023-2024 Maryland Teacher of the Year. The finalists were selected by a panel of judges from key Maryland education organizations representing principals, teachers, school boards, teacher unions, parents, and higher education.
Mrs. Andrea Schulte, Visual Arts teacher at Kent Island High School, was named as a Maryland State Teacher of the Year Finalist! The 2023-2024 Maryland Teacher of the Year will be announced during a gala reception and dinner at Martin’s West in Baltimore on October 13, 2023. The winner will receive cash awards, national traveling opportunities, and participate in several national meetings and conferences. The press release from MSDE can be found here.
A number of county leaders around the state say requirements to increase spending on education need to be coupled with greater authority for them to oversee that spending.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D), a former math teacher, said his relationship with his school system is sometimes frustrating and often relegates his role to being an ATM.
He and other county leaders are renewing a call for a larger role in overseeing how education dollars are spent.
“We do not have a truly cooperative, interactive relationship, at this point, but nobody does,” Elrich said. “Montgomery County is not unique. You’ll find these kinds of arguments all around the state between county governments and the local school boards. We’re like a money machine but we have no power in how the money gets tapped at some point.”
Education spending represents a large portion of county budgets. Montgomery County sends a total of $3 billion to its school system. In many counties, spending on education, including state aid, represents nearly half of the annual budget.
Implementing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a 10-year, multi-billion-dollar education reform plan, will require even more money from local governments.
“The county has no authority,” he said. “We can’t even, for example, look at a budget line item and say we don’t think you should do that program. We’re not going to fund that program and we want you to fund a different program. County has no ability to do that. We’re restricted to giving the school system the same amount of money that it had last year, adjusted for population growth and inflation. That’s our whopping authority over there.”
The question of whether county governments should have greater control over their school districts has been an ongoing conversation for the so-called Big 8 jurisdictions and the Maryland Association of Counties over several months, according to Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D).
“I think it’s mostly focused on transparency in budgeting,” he said. “Most of us feel like we don’t have a good sense of what their finances really look like and maybe there’s a more collaborative approach.”
Pittman said each county is different, based on the willingness of county government leaders, school board members and education leaders to work together. Pittman praised Anne Arundel’s relatively new school superintendent, Mark Bedell, who took over in July of 2022, for being especially “collaborative.”
In Prince George’s, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) said residents want to know that the tax dollars are spent effectively. When the schools account for 62% of county government spending, officials can’t help but strive for transparency, she said.
Alsobrooks conceded she didn’t have a sense of what Elrich was seeking, specifically.
“But I agree with him that we ought to be accountable for how those dollars are used,” she said.
Like Pittman, she said collaboration is the key. Alsobrooks had a good working relationship with the former public schools CEO, Monica Goldson, who left the school system at the end of June.
“I was pleased to have someone like Dr. Goldson, who was really the subject matter expert, who made those decisions,” Alsobrooks said. “The government is responsible for funding those operations. I think we should hire the very best CEO, someone who’s trained in education, who can work together with the school board to make policy decisions.”
But collaboration frequently relies on the personalities involved and is not always possible.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. (D) praised the current relationship between his administration and Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Miriam Yarbrough.
“It’s a very collaborative and open approach,” said Olszewski. “What I can say is that I know that’s not the case across the state. It certainly hasn’t always been the case in Baltimore County. And so, to the extent we can institutionalize some of these practices, I think you avoid relying on personalities.”
Local government gripes about a lack of authority is not new. And even though some local officials have the ability to appoint some members of their school board or even appoint a school superintendent, school systems remain independent and nearly immune to political pressure from other officials.
Cutting into that independence would require help from the General Assembly.
Senate Majority Leader Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery), who chairs two Budget and Taxation subcommittees that deal with education issues, said there is no need to change the current system.
“I would be absolutely, 1000% against that,” King said, adding that Elrich and others lack the experience to make decisions for the school system.
“He needs to do his job and let the school board do their job,” she said.
King, a former school board member, said complaints about lack of oversight amount to “a nice political thing to say.”
“All these people, they want to re-do the budget. They want to re-do how school systems run, it’s like they don’t have enough of their own jobs to do,” she said.
Tensions, however, remain. A program at last month’s Maryland Association of Counties conference in Ocean City that was to focus on potentially tight budgets ahead was almost entirely focused on increased funding requirements for Blueprint education reforms.
“Since I’ve been county executive, we’ve had two years with the largest single-year increases in county history,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball (D). “That’s just driven by the Blueprint. We’re just making those investments. I think in making those investments, we need some transparency and accountability.”
In Howard County, the roughly $1 billion in school funding accounts for nearly 51% of the county’s annual spending.
“I think that there is an important conversation to be had about a county executive and a council or commissioner-based system who have so much funding responsibility and zero ability to actually ensure where those dollars go and that they’re used effectively,” said Ball.
Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, which represents about 75,000 teachers across the state, said a “broader conversation” that includes checks and balances is needed.
“If I’m a county executive and I’m doing a project, but yet I have an independent board of education that’s supposed to be the experts on education, I don’t want to usurp that power,” she said. “There should be more communication and collaboration to where that money goes to support the Blueprint.”
But Bost said there are limits.
“I think there’s a fine line between too much power at the county executive commission level and not enough autonomy of an educational board,” she said. “But also with the Blueprint coming up [and] demanding so much more local funding, that there has to be some more collaboration.”
Maryland Matters reporters William Ford and Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.
Two new public employee unions had extra cause to celebrate this Labor Day weekend.
New faculty unions at Howard Community College and Frederick Community College were certified and recognized last week under a state law governing unionization on community college campuses.
Howard and Frederick are the first community college faculties in Maryland to organize after the General Assembly passed a collective bargaining bill in 2021, over the veto of former Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
On Wednesday, the full-time faculty at the campuses were recognized as members of AFT-Maryland by the state Public Employee Relations Board.
The unions were formed under a new “card check” law, through which unions are recognized if more than 50% of bargaining unit members sign authorization cards saying they’d like to join.
After months of organizing, more than 80% of the 170 faculty members at Howard Community College and 100 faculty members at Frederick submitted cards to the board on Aug. 21.
The American Federation of Teachers Maryland now represents about 18,000 employees across the state.
The community colleges are among 54 new units organized this year by the AFT, the nation’s largest higher education union. Its total membership is now at a record high of 1.72 million, union leaders said.
“Higher ed faculty want unions — and the more workers who are organized, the more students see that respect and voice leads to greater opportunity, that’s the way more families have access to the middle class,” AFT’s national president, Randi Weingarten, said. “That’s why it is such a hot labor summer.”
Union members at the Frederick and Howard campuses said they undertook the organizing effort to address ever-increasing workloads, inadequate compensation and other issues they hope to deal with as a collective voice.
“I’m for unionizing because faculty know what’s best for our students, our schools and higher education, and a union and a contract will finally give us our say. Administrators tell us how to do our jobs without knowing their way around a classroom. But when it comes to our students and their learning, I trust my colleagues. I trust faculty,” Howard Community College English instructor Tim Bruno said in a statement.
The college issued a statement last week after the union’s certification and recognition.
“As HCC and AFT embark on this new chapter of cooperation, both parties look forward to working closely together. The shared goal is to cultivate an environment that promotes excellence, innovation, and the continued advancement of education,” a press release stated.
In Frederick, the unionization effort comes after allegations of bullying and harassment by former President Elizabeth Burmaster, who left the college in 2021 following protests and a no-confidence vote.
“The history of the institution shows that no existing organization, including FCC’s board of trustees and various state and regional accreditation organizations, will protect faculty and other employees from abusive administrators. The solidarity and power we are creating with our union will ensure our protection,” Greg Coldren, a member of the school’s math faculty, said in a statement.
Ray Baker, a spokesperson for AFT-Maryland, said the new unions will help faculty members elevate their concerns collectively — and improve outcomes for students on their campuses.
“Unions do not necessarily have to be adversarial. In the best situations, unions and campus leadership work hand-in-hand because they have shared goals and shared values,” Baker said.
Nationally, Baker said he thinks labor unions are growing because “workers are looking around and saying ‘This is a little tougher than it used to be. This is a little harder than it used to be. I know we’re not getting the benefits that this work once delivered.’”
“So the way that you remedy that, the way that workers can find some power for themselves again, is through a union,” Baker said. “And that’s why we’re seeing this increased interest.”
Before passage of the 2021 collective bargaining law, some employee groups were already organized at the Community College of Baltimore County, Montgomery College, and Prince George’s Community College.
There are additional faculty organizing efforts by AFT-Maryland underway now at the Community College of Baltimore County and Prince George’s Community College.
“Hopefully very soon we will be adding them to our labor family as well,” Baker said.
And at Anne Arundel Community College, the push for a unionization vote is underway.
In May, Service Employees International Union Local 500 filed a representation election petition with the state, seeking to become the exclusive representative of part-time faculty there.
The new labor actions have gone forward under the purview of the Public Employee Relations Board, a new panel that was created by The Public Employee Relations Act passed by the General Assembly earlier this year. The new board replaces and consolidates three former panels: the State Labor Relations Board, the State Higher Education Labor Relations Board, and the Public School Labor Relations Board.
Gov. Wes Moore (D) named the first members of the new Public Employee Relations Board in August. The members are subject to confirmation by the Maryland Senate.
By Danielle E. Gaines