News from Annapolis
Delegate Trent Kittleman - District 9A
Jan. 26 , 2021
  • Education Part II: Parents Need School Choice
  • Legislature to Protect Birds from buildings
  • Appropriations Committee to vote this Wednesday on HB-1 - Historically Black Colleges & Universities
  • District 9-A: Howard Delegation Meeting
  • District 9-A: Carroll County School Reopening Plans
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"It's for the Children"... isn't it?
As the new year rolls along, school systems all over the country are re-opening. But not here. In Maryland, a handful of counties are refusing to reopen, consigning 1000’s of children to the continued dangers of isolation, sitting in front of their computers day after day.
Perhaps the clearest lesson to come out of this pandemic is that our children are the prisoners of a monolithic public school system. And no matter how good your own child’s school may be, the pandemic has shown us that we have very little control over decisions made by an insular and unionized system of public education.
Howard County Remains Closed
Howard County has perhaps the best school system in the state. Yet this is the second time in two years parents have found themselves at odds with decisions by our school board. Two years ago, the Board chose to unnecessarily redistrict over 5,000 children. Space needs could have been accomplished by redistricting fewer than 2,000 students. The balance of the redistricting was to achieve more “socioeconomic integration”— that has no proven legitimacy and was decided unilaterally by the system, all in the name of "equity." And yet we overlook or reject the greatest inequity in our educational system.

During the pandemic, families who were able to afford it pulled their children out of the virtual-only public school system and enrolled them private schools, including private schools that offered online learning because these schools had the experience to do it right.

Meanwhile, families without the means to afford private schools continue to sit and wait for the public schools to decide to return their children to school and their lives back to some semblance of normal.

Parents should have a choice about their children’s education. In Maryland, only the wealthy have that choice.
How is that fair? Where is the equity we strive so hard to achieve? Why aren’t my liberal friends beating the drum for school choice? For more access to Charter Schools? Unfortunately, as charter schools have become more successful, there has been a political backlash against charters, with anti-charter-school laws being passed across the country.
For example, in Cincinnati, a school district there sold nine buildings, “stipulating that the structures not be used for schools.” In Tucson, the Unified School District sold a former elementary school building to a developer for just under $1.5 million – after a charter school had offered $2.1 million.
Charters as "Competition"

Somewhere along the way, our public educators have taken a wrong turn. Instead of encouraging ideas and innovations that have proven successful in teaching children, they have viewed charter schools as competition.

In Los Altos, California, the "quid pro quo" for Charter Schools to get approval was to accept a very limited cap of 1,111 of students enrollment. The president of that school board called the charter school’s growing enrollment an “existential threat to the district.”
When the Detroit Board of Education blocked the sale of an unused school building to a charter school, a member of the Board explained that “there is no way we should be sustaining our competition.” [Sowell p.60]

A Milwaukee school board member described public support for charter schools as: “like asking the Coca-Cola Company to turn its facilities to Pepsi so Pepsi can expand and compete with the Coca-Cola Company.”

What the public school system and its vocal advocates fail to acknowledge is that "the taxpayers bought and paid for the school buildings for the purpose of educating children -- not for the purpose of protecting incumbents in the education establishment from competition."
The only real question we should ask is, do charter schools, by and large, offer and provide a successful education to children who have been mired in failing schools for years.

Just How Good Are Charter Schools? Depending on whom you listen to, charter schools are either a striking success or a "failed and damaging experiment."

One major complication in studies comparing public charter schools with traditional public schools is that the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds of students in the charter schools as a whole turn out to be very different from those of students in traditional public schools as a whole.”

In order to get a more reliable understanding of how charter schools compare with traditional public schools, Dr. Thomas Sowell, economistsocial theorist, and senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, undertook a study in which he compared individual charter schools with individual traditional public schools that are as similar as possible. His criteria were to compare only schools that: (1) have a similar ethnic composition of students; (2) are taught in the same building; and (3) have one or more classes at the same grade level in the same building. This allowed Sowell to compare individual classes in individual grades.
Charter Schools and Their Enemies
The results of his study are found in Dr. Sowell's newest book, Charter Schools and Their Enemies, published in 2020. Not only are his findings exceptionally proven and well-documented, the book is delightful to read. I highly recommend it.
Although Maryland finds the concept of a half-full school building hard to believe, New York City proved exceptional in having a substantial number of charter schools and traditional public schools meeting all three requirements. Indeed, in the school year 2017 - 2018, there were more than 23,000 students in New York City meeting all of the requirements. Sowell added an extra criterion in selecting his sample. For the sake of ethnic comparability, the paired schools in his study had to have a majority of their students who are either black and/or Hispanic.
There is a great deal more detail in the book, supporting the validity of Dr. Sowell's findings. Records of the paired class comparisons are presented in a series of more than 60 tables like the one below. You can open the book, close your eyes and point to any chart and you will find virtually the same pattern of success. The results are hard to argue.
Performance Levels: Level 1: Well Below Proficient Level 2: Below Proficient
Level 3: Proficient Level 4: Above Proficient
The tests used in these comparisons are the New York State English Language Arts Test, and for mathematics, the New York State Mathematics Test. These two tests are given annually by the New York State Education Department.
Maryland to protect birds
from big buildings
A few years ago, society discovered that birds were suffering serious injury and death by glass buildings. Apparently, our feathered friends are unable to recognize that glass windows are solid objects and tend to fly straight into them with fatal results. Clearly, this was a something the legislature should address. Legislation to do just that first appeared two years ago. We are now on our third iteration of the bill and, this year, it might just pass.

I will admit to a certain skepticism about the appropriateness of focusing on birds as a legislative priority in the middle of a pandemic.
Nonetheless, I do love birds. I fill my birdfeeder on a regular basis and try very hard to keep my cats from devouring them. (Note that cats appear to be even more dangerous than buildings!).

It worries me, however, that sometimes the legislature's efforts to 'take care of' birds. . . and puppies, etc., can have a negative effect on people. This single-minded passion often shows up in the sponsors original bill.
This year's bill has been scaled back so that it does not directly require a budget increase. However, much of the cost of the bill will be left to the State's Department of Health as it determines what it "must" do. The bill's often subjective language, such as "to the extent practicable," gives the regulators a great deal of autonomy.

For example, one of the bill's possible 'fixes' is to replace windows with walls. It reminds me of the great education experiment when the newest fad was to build schools without windows. Fifteen years later, we realized how important it was for children--and teachers-- to have access to natural light, and we gradually began putting windows back into schools.

If the bill passes, let's hope it is implemented so that it is as friendly to people as it is to birds.
HB-1: Historically Black College & Universities Funding of $577,000,000
HB-1 is being introduced this year as a slightly different version of the bill that Governor Hogan vetoed last year. The bill is the Legislature's effort to put an end to the 14-year lawsuit, The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education et al. v. Maryland Higher Education Commission et al. ("Coalition Case"), alleging that Maryland has failed to dismantle the vestiges of segregation from its prior de jure system of higher education. 

In 2013, the lower court ruled against the Coalition Plaintiffs on nine of their ten claims, stating that the Coalition failed to prove “any current operational funding or mission-related policy or practice.” 

Although recognizing past discrimination, the District Court said, "Maryland has maintained a policy of enhancing HBCU mission and programming at least since the 1970's in an effort to mitigate the effects of de jure discrimination." 
The Court also noted that the HBCUs were, in fact, funded at a higher level than Maryland's traditional institutions.  "Since Fiscal Year 2002, state support for Maryland's HBCUs far exceeded the growth rate for the state's other public four-year institutions." Between 1999 and 2019, Maryland devoted more than $1.3 billion in capital funds and $195.6 million in enhanced operating funds to the HBCUs. 
The only claim the Court upheld was that the state had failed to eliminate “unnecessary program duplication” for Maryland HBCUs, instructing the parties to engage in mediation and try to generate a suitable plan to address the problem of unnecessary program duplication. 
The overarching question is how much money is needed to remedy whatever damages occurred as a result of unnecessary program duplication. Below, Governor Hogan addresses this issue in a letter to the Black Caucus dated September 26, 2019.
“Much has changed in Maryland’s higher education since these issues began to be seriously addressed in 2012, and since the Coalition Case was filed in 2006. Today, the University system of Maryland is 41.9% Caucasian, 42.3% minority (the remainder declined to answer or belonged to smaller minorities). Fully 25% of the System’s students are African-American. In this regard, it is worth noting that Maryland’s traditional institutions educate twice as many African-American as the HBCUs. There are 15,578 African Americans at the HCBUs while there are 33,755 African-Americans at the traditional institutions These realities make policy-based funding decisions more difficult for Maryland’s leaders.”
Answers to the philosophical rightness of this issue are debatable. What is not debatable is that Maryland, along with the entire country, is suffering through a pandemic that has totally disrupted all our lives, has caused many people to die, many businesses to close, and many more to become unemployed. To date, we don't know the extent of the economic damage. We don't know that many are suffering.

The state's budget will be facing tough choices for the next few years, just to continue to do what it now does. This just isn't the time to create significant new expenditures unless they are directly related to assisting victims of the pandemic.
District 9A
Howard County News
Carroll County News
Carroll County Public Schools Reopening and Recovery Plan
Return to Hybrid Instruction – January 7
Posted 1/5/21
At the January 4, 2021, Board of Education meeting, the Board voted to continue its plans to move forward with a return to the hybrid model of instruction effective Thursday, January 7, 2021. The hybrid plan allows for students to return to in-person instruction two days a week in established cohorts. As a requirement of our plans, students will also continue to receive virtual instruction on days when they are not in school or if students choose to remain in an all-virtual format instead of participating in the hybrid cohorts.

Families will continue to have an option to participate in the hybrid or all-virtual plans. If your plans for your student have changed from when we were previously in the hybrid model, please contact your child’s school to let them know if you haven’t done so already. 

We continue to recognize and emphasize the incredible importance of all the safety protocols that must be in place in our schools to best ensure the safety of our students, staff, and our school communities. You can continue to expect communication regarding self-screening symptom reminders. It is very important that everyone does their part to mitigate the spread of COVID and follow all of the best practices of mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand washing/hand sanitizing frequently so that we may keep everyone healthy and continue to provide educational services to our community.  In addition, we will work to update the data dashboards for each school that we had in place when we were previously in the hybrid model by January 13th. 

It is important to note as a result of the current complexities surrounding COVID-19 and related health concerns, we anticipate that there may be disruptions to learning, which could result in temporary closures of classrooms, programs, or schools as a result. We ask for your patience and understanding as we continually work through these challenges as they arise. You can expect continued communication from your child's school and/or the system throughout.

We would like to thank our teachers, administrators, and staff for their incredible work in rising to, and meeting, the obstacles that are a part of delivering our virtual and hybrid learning and all the associated challenges that have been a part of this time. 

We thank you in advance for your flexibility as we continue to work together to support our students. 
Please click here if you wish to view the CCPS Reopening and Recovery Plan.

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Annapolis, MD 21401