Carozza attends Kirwan Commission meeting
(Jan. 26, 2018) Del. Mary Beth Carozza attended a briefing this past week from the Kirwan Commission, which is expected to deliver a recommendation concerning statewide funding of public schools at the end of the session, prepared for members of the ...
Educational Consortium requests legislative initiatives
ANNAPOLIS — Superintendent of Talbot County Public Schools and current academic year President of the Eastern Shore of Maryland’s Educational Consortium Kelly Griffith presented to the Eastern Shore Delegation Feb. 9 in Annapolis.
Griffith along with the nine superintendents from the Eastern Shore school districts requested the support of their six legislative initiatives. Funding, capital projects, technology, assessments, local control, and teacher shortages are the top priorities facing the school districts on the Shore, Griffith said.
She thanked the delegation for seeing them. “We are very fortunate to have a delegation that supports public education and truly values and appreciates the contributions made by public education to rural areas. We thank you and commend you for your service to the Shore,” Griffith said.
Funding in the form of state support via the state aid education formulas and the addition of the add count of pre-kindergarten children to the funding formula is critical, she said. “We know that a strong early childhood program is essential to the success of every child.” Currently pre-kindergarten programs are an unfunded mandate.
Funding is cut often for pre-k, said Griffith, and going after funding for universal pre-k remains a top priority. Kindergarten readiness assessments are showing hard data for positive benefits in counties with universal full day pre-k. By example, she said, Kent and Somerset counties both ranked in the top four in the state for kindergarten readiness — both have universal full-day programs.
Funding formulas need to be fair for the Shore, said Del. Mary Beth Carozza responding to Griffith, however, it is important for local superintendents to let them know how those pieces work together, like Head Start, day care programs, and pre-k when evaluating funding and implementation of a universal pre-k program.
Capital projects are equally crucial, Griffith said, adding, “We are seeking your continued support for your capital project requests.”
The delegation was provided with a specific list of projects and budgetary needs by district, including in Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, and Wicomico replacement roofs; replacement construction for Gilpin Manor Elementary in Cecil, North Dorchester High in Dorchester, J.M. Tawes Technology and Career Center in Somerset, Easton Elementary in Talbot, West Salisbury Elementary in Wicomico, and Showell Elementary in Worcester County; and Queen Anne’s replacement chiller systems in both Church Hill Elementary and Kent Island High.
The use of technology as a tool to deliver instruction and assess student progress continues to grow, Griffith told the delegation. “We are recommending the state adopt a funding mechanism to provide funds to local school systems to upgrade infrastructure and purchase devices for student use,” said Griffith, “Bandwidth and internet accessibility needs to be promoted.”
Griffith also asked the group to oppose legislation regarding assessments. “A lot of people don’t know what we already do [in regards to current testing],” she said, “We believe school systems need to retain local control over the types and number of benchmark and teacher designed tests .... We urge you to oppose any initiative that prevents local school systems from using assessment as a critical tool to monitor and support student learning.”
Griffith also said ESMEC believes local school systems must have autonomy and flexibility to implement federal and state education reforms. “We are strongly recommending that the General Assembly support the critical need for local control by opposing any legislation that impacts the authority of local boards of education and superintendents of schools,” said Griffith.
Lastly, Griffith said, “We are in a crisis when it comes to teaching profession – I don’t use that term lightly, we are losing staff in middle of school year.” In Maryland, there is a shortage of qualified teachers.
“On the average,” said Griffith, “Maryland Institutions of Higher Education graduate approximately 2,400 teachers per year while MD public schools employ on average 5,000 new teachers per year, creating a perpetual shortage.” Of those numbers, Griffith said the Shore — competing with other school systems in the state and region — hires 400 new teachers per year.
“We are asking the Eastern Shore Delegation to declare the teacher shortage in Maryland a crisis and adopt policies to encourage more people to become teachers,” said Griffith.
Del. Steve Arentz agreed with Griffith that education is paramount — and that there should be a deeper look at education. He also raised his concerns that drug education awareness remain paramount in each of the school districts and suggested the use of the technology currently available through the Text to Stop It program to further that education/communication and reporting.
Dels. Jay Jacobs and Jeff Ghrist also weighed in on legislation potentially forthcoming that may affect schools in their capital projects — a proposed plan for fire sprinklers to be added/updated in all buildings. The sprinkler bill carries a hefty fiscal note, said Ghrist and it likely will not go forward. But Jacobs said it was paramount to ensure ESMEC was aware that legislation on the subject did exist.
Ghrist also inquired about a tuition reimbursement feasibility study in response to Griffith’s concerns over the teacher shortage. Griffith said studies had not been done, but it was something ESMEC was prepared to produce.
Other legislation affecting schools this year include the paid sick leave act. Griffith reported the average increase could be $80,000 in unplanned expense in the budget due to covering paid sick leave for substitutes. Those numbers could increase based on usage or need for substitutes. Queen Anne’s County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Andrea Kane estimated those numbers for her district to be approximately $85,000.
Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools and former Superintendent Talbot County Public Schools, addressed the delegation in closing. “Thank you,” said Salmon, “for recognizing the work of ESMEC. You’ve heard we have several issues. Teacher retention is huge ... we (MD) are importing 59 percent of our teachers.”
Salmon also said one of her personal missions is to level the playing field — making universal pre-k a priority.
“Every child needs a career,” said Salmon, “and the opportunity for career development — kids are doing things you cannot even begin to imagine now in high school. There are great programs we have now.”
A High School Graduation Task Force has been created to look at high school graduation requirements and make recommendations, said Salmon. She is looking for those recommendations to be given to her office by July.