MSEA 2024 Legislative Priorities

Dec 11, 2023

The 2024 legislative session is an important opportunity to continue to build on the strong work and history of commitment to our public schools by the governor and the legislature. Record investments in public education are benefiting Maryland students across the state as we continue to recover from the pandemic while at the same time addressing historic educator shortages. Our priorities for this legislative session focus on enhancing respect and support for public school educators as we work to recruit, retain, and diversify our workforce to meet the needs of our students, as well as protecting all of our students, no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they come from. We must take concerted actions to lay the groundwork for long-term success, support, and opportunities for all Maryland students.

Addressing the Educator Shortage, Excessive Workload, and School Safety

Maryland’s educator shortages remain at crisis levels. While the legislature and governor made progress last session through the Maryland Educator Shortage Reduction Act, the pipeline of educators continues to be insufficient due to challenging working conditions and years of inadequate pay. This session all legislation must be considered through a lens of reducing excessive workload to combat educators leaving while making the profession more desirable and attainable.

While the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future has begun to make great strides in teacher pay, we must do all we can to get significant raises to educators as soon as possible to ensure they are able to stay in their positions. The state must focus on retaining its current teaching force while continuing to build the pipeline of high-quality, diverse educators.

The staffing shortage affects the academic achievement, emotional wellness, and safety of our students. Students and families are faced with more trauma, unaddressed social emotional needs, societal divisiveness, and high levels of stress. These have contributed to more disciplinary issues that too often lead to violence between students and sometimes against staff members. To provide additional student support, targeted interventions, trainings, and restorative practices, our schools need more qualified mental health professionals and support staff. Schools must be the safe and supportive learning and teaching environments they are meant to be, and that students, educators, and families deserve.

Diversifying the Educator Pipeline

In addition to educator shortages and high rates of teacher attrition, Maryland’s teaching workforce is less racially and linguistically diverse than our students. All students benefit from learning from diverse educators, and Black and Brown students who learn from educators of the same race or ethnicity have improved academic outcomes. As the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future recognizes, recruiting and retaining educators of color is essential to achieving an equitable, world-class public education.

Grow-Your-Own (GYO) programs are a time-tested and increasingly widespread strategy to recruit and retain a more diverse educator workforce. GYO programs are investments by school systems to develop local educator pipelines through tuition support, mentorship, union partnerships, and more. The programs take many forms, with many focusing on education support professionals who wish to gain teacher certification. Most Maryland LEAs have already begun offering such programs using temporary LEADs grant funds, but to build on existing GYO models, they will need a permanent funding source with clear parameters.

It is also time to re-examine testing requirements that too often pose barriers to diversifying the teaching profession. Research suggests that teacher certification exams are not strong predictors of teacher effectiveness, and racial disparities in scoring indicate bias within the tests. Creating multiple pathways including passing the Praxis, or GPA, or successful evaluations allow for greater opportunities to recruit and retain quality educators.  It is also time to remove the growth component tied to test scores in teacher and administrator evaluations. Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) have been shown to not improve teacher practice or student outcomes but create additional workload and time away from student instruction and planning.

Honest and Inclusive Education

Public schools and libraries across the country are facing a wave of politically motivated attempts to ban, restrict, and otherwise censor books and educational materials that celebrate diversity and grapple honestly with our history. These extreme campaigns often target Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ authors and protagonists. Although an overwhelming majority of people oppose banning books and resources, attempts by a few extremists to restrict inclusive content harm all children and distract from real areas of concern.

Maryland has not been immune to book bans and curriculum challenges. We need clear policies that prevent partisan censorship of books and curricula and affirm students’ rights to an education that accurately portrays history and reflects our diversity. We must ensure that Maryland’s curriculum standards are inclusive, updated, and reflect the experiences of historically marginalized groups. All students deserve the freedom to read and learn, and we can take action to protect honesty and accuracy in education.

ESP Bill of Rights

Education support professionals (ESPs) are essential to the success of our students and our schools. The goals of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future cannot be fulfilled without a high-quality, diverse ESP workforce. These essential workers transport our students to and from school, provide students with individualized instructional support, keep our schools safe and healthy, provide clerical and administrative services, prepare nutritious meals, and do so much more to support our students and schools.

For far too long, however, ESPs, teachers, and other related service providers have faced threats from privatization when school districts subcontract with private companies to perform essential school services. Too often, the support given to students has also declined when companies are brought into our schools that don’t know our students and communities and are primarily focused on making a profit. This session, MSEA will advocate to establish guardrails around when school districts subcontract essential school services, including greater accountability and transparency from school districts and subcontractors. Additionally, ESPs and all educators must be protected from subcontracting practices that undermine the value of their jobs. Accurate and transparent information is needed to ensure subcontracting practices do not threaten the quality of essential school services provided to students.

Strengthening the Blueprint to Meet the Moment

The need for the Blueprint and its successful implementation has never been more imperative for the future success of our schools and students. With any complex legislation, adjustments are identified and needed to fine-tune implementation. Amendments are necessary to the Blueprint not only to ensure the spirit of the bill is implemented as intended, but also to address the current excessive staffing shortages.

The amendments educators seek are intended to address inequities across job categories in the career ladder and target educators who are working in shortage areas. Strategic improvements to the career ladder structure will help support current educators and assist in the recruitment of future educators, including the mental health professionals who are needed more than ever by our students and educator.

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