One of the highlights of the recently completed legislative session was the agreement by the governor and General Assembly on an aid package of several-hundred-million dollars to Baltimore City in response to last spring’s unrest. The state funds, designated to shore up some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, will be used to expand after-school programs, keep libraries open, fix up community parks and demolish vacant houses.
The Maryland legislature also approved new initiatives either as budget items or as legislation to enhance K-12 education. These include scholarships for low-income students, a grant program for summer learning, funding for private school scholarships, and setting up a commission to make recommendations on the adequacy of public school funding.
The governor put $5 million in his budget to offer scholarships for low-income students to attend nonpublic schools under the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) program. The Maryland Department of Education will administer the program and be responsible for establishing procedures for the application and awarding of scholarships. The program is funded on a year-to-year basis. Maryland will be the 24th state in the nation to allow private-school tuition assistance.
To see the complete review of the legislative season and to check on each bill’s status, visit
- Pathways in Technology Early College (P-TECH) High Schools—SB (Senate bill) 376 provides funding to establish planning grants for six P-Tech schools. Two of the school will be in Baltimore City. P-Tech schools prepare students for 21st-century jobs through a collaborative partnership between high schools, community colleges and industry. Students graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from a community college.
- Baltimore City School Board—City legislators passed a controversial measure HB (House bill) 558 on the last day of the session to create a partially elected school board. Two new members to be elected by city voters in 2020 will be added to the nine-member board. Delegate Cheryl Glenn told the Baltimore Sun said, “We will finally have people on the school board who will be accountable to the citizens of the city.”
As the session was nearing a close, a last-minute amendment was offered to HB 858 that would require a member of the House of Delegates and Senate be involved in any decision to select a new CEO for Baltimore I city schools. While their participation would be advisory, the action was seen as expressing dissatisfaction with school board’s hiring of the current CEO.
- Next-Generation Scholars Grant—HB 1403 provides college scholarships to low-income students who meet rigorous academic and social criteria during middle school and high school. Middle-school students are eligible to apply and must maintain a 2.5 GPA through high school and be open to summer work or internship opportunities.
- Public School Opportunities Act—HB 1402 addresses the problem of learning loss that occurs in the summer months when students fall behind due to a lack of educational opportunities. The loss is most frequent among low-income children. The law establishes a grant program for extended day or summer enhancement programs administered by the Maryland State Department of Education. A local school system, community school or nonprofit is eligible to apply.
- Information on Mandated Assessments—HB 412 requires boards of education to provide information on each local, state or federally mandated assessment in that county that measures a student’s academic success. By October 15 of each year, this information must be updated, posted on the local board’s website and included in the board’s master plan.
- Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten Assessments—SB 794 scales back kindergarten assessments in the state. The current system of statewide assessments of all four-year-olds is to be limited to a random sample, as determined by MSDE, of kindergarten students in each jurisdiction.
- Habitual Truancy—HB 429 establishes the Task Force to Combat Habitual Student Truancy. Task force responsibilities include identifying best practices to determine how records are collected and maintained, and the best time to notify pupil personnel workers of a student’s chronic absenteeism. The task force will be staffed by Morgan State University.
- Teacher Induction, Retention and Advancement—SB 429 established a pilot program for first-year teachers. The program offers mentorship, peer observation and professional development for first-year teachers who are selected to participate in the program. The state pays 80 percent of the costs and the school district the remaining 20 percent. Counties are not required to participate.
- Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education—SB 905 established a commission to review findings of a consultant’s study on the adequacy of public school funding in Maryland that was completed in December. The commission is tasked with translating the work done by the consultant into legislative proposals on changes to the state’s school-funding formula to be presented to the General Assembly. A preliminary report is due December 31.