News from Annapolis
Delegate Trent Kittleman - District 9A
Feb. 2 , 2021
  • Education Part III of: WHERE'S THE EQUITY?
  • Author of Charter Schools & Their Enemies talks about Charter Schools and Race
  • Republican Caucus Education Legislation Package
  • School Choice Offers Every Child the Chance to Learn
  • Maryland's Unappreciated Education Resources
  • Tips to Testifying
  • District 9-A: Howard School Reopening Plan
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EDUCATION PART III: Where's the Equity?
After living with nine months of "virtual learning," parents are beginning to opt out. They are frustrated by their lack of ability to affect the system; they are frustrated by being required to supervise their children's virtual in-home school; and they are angry at a teachers union that prevents teachers from coming back to work like the many other public servants who have done so -- doctors and nurses, paramedics, grocery store clerks, among others

A significant number of parents are responding by pulling their children out of the public school virtual learning habitat and putting them into private schools, where the teachers have been allowed to teach their students in person.

A recent poll found that 63% of parents say they have considered or are considering a different school for their child. And enrollment in Maryland's K-12 public schools is down by 3%; that's 26,830 students who have found--and could afford--an alternative.

Not content with efforts to prevent Maryland's public schools from reopening, the teachers union and its liberal Democrat supporters went even farther in Montgomery County. When Maryland placed teachers in Phase 1-B of its vaccination plan, "Montgomery County responded by setting up a vaccination program for public school teachers only, even though the only teachers in classrooms in the county currently are private school teachers."

Fortunately, the State health department quickly intervened, advising Montgomery County that such a policy is discriminatory, and in a letter the state warns that "vaccinators who discriminate against private school teachers will have their vaccine allotments reduced."
From the author of
Charter Schools and their enemies
In the last issue of the newsletter, I referred to the book, Charter Schools and their Enemies, written by Thomas Sowell. The image on the left is a clip from a video of the author talking about charter schools -- and race. Once again, I heartily recommend both the book and its author.
Republican Caucus Legislation to provide financial help to parents
The Republican Caucus has put together a package of bills to help families helping families struggling to educate their children. Minority Whip, Kathy Szeliga, presented the effort to kick off a Thursday Press Conference, then introduced the Delegates sponsoring the bills.

Delegate Lauren Arikan, R-Baltimore and Harford counties has a bill that would apply to any district that fails to fully reopen by the fall of 2021. It would give the $7,000 state portion of per-pupil funding to the parents to "to take and then spend that money at the private or parochial school of their choice,” said Del. Arikan. The hope is that all schools would have reopened to all students by then, in which case, the bill would be moot.

Republican Delegate, Mike Griffith, introduced legislation designed to help with the cost of virtual learning. Lawmakers say families spent an average of $790 on school supplies last year.

The Republican package also includes the Learning at Home Relief Act. "Maryland families need a break. The bill will provide a $250 per child tax credit to help offset the cost of educating Maryland’s children at home,” said Del. Brenda Thiam, R-Washington County.

No hearing dates have yet been set for the bills, but it's likely the hearings will be scheduled fairly quickly, considering the pace at which leadership is moving.
School Choice offers every child an opportunity to learn
The last week in January was National School Choice Week. This organization promotes all types of schools, from magnet schools to homeschooling. It does not favor one type over another. Here is what the organization stands for:
  • "Every child deserves an effective, challenging, and motivating education. And, because each student has their own unique set of talents, interests, and challenges, having a variety of options in education is crucial. What works well for one child may not work well for another child!
  • In short, school choice ensures that each student can find a learning environment that allows them to be inspired, successful, and happy."
Why can't we offer the children of Maryland all of these options?
Maryland's "Underappreciated" Education Resources
Giving "BOOST" a Boost
Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) is a program that provides scholarships for low-income students (FARMs-eligible only) to allow parents to choose the type of school that is the best fit for their child. This program is of particular value for low-income families whose children are stuck in schools that have been failing for years. Thousands of low-income students have received BOOST scholarships.

As wonderful as many Maryland public schools are, the achievement gap is still very wide. All children deserve the best education possible, no matter where they grow up. BOOST-recipient families report an average household income of just $25,123. Of the students receiving BOOST scholarships, 63% were minorities. The 2017-2018 BOOST program has opened the doors to immigrant and first-generation Americans, with 744 students (33%) reported as English Language Learners. Students from 21 of the state's 24 jurisdictions have received BOOST scholarships.

In its second year, the BOOST program saw a 50% increase in applications. A total of 2,646 scholarships were awarded and more than 1,650 students remained waitlisted. The need for this program is patently obvious. No child in this country should lose his or her opportunity to go to a school of choice because their name isn't picked in the lottery! Thousands of Maryland children are on waitlists for charter schools; thousands more qualified children are locked out of the BOOST program due to lack of funding.

Unfortunately, the BOOST program has lost the bipartisan support it had originally. Success of an education alternative to traditional public schools draws the attention of the powerful teachers' unions that lobby strongly against any form of "competition." And every year, the House Appropriations Committee cuts funding to BOOST.

Below are some of the reasons given for opposing the program; the reasons, however, don't hold up:
THOSE OPPOSED SAY: "Participant schools are allowed to discriminate"
aaaaaaTHE TRUTH: The program language contains strong anti-discrimination provisions. If schools violate those provisions, they are removed from the program. There has never been a noted case of a school removed from the program for a discriminatory act. Moreover, MSDE requires all participating schools to submit their student handbooks to ensure no policies violate the anti-discrimination provisions of BOOST. After a sweeping review, seven schools have been deemed ineligible due to questionable handbook language. We don't condone such language, and those schools were swiftly removed from the program. The anti-discrimination language currently in BOOST was settled upon by high-ranking members of the legislature two years ago and is WORKING.
THOSE OPPOSED SAY: “Schools discriminate against students with disabilities.”
aaaaaaTHE TRUTHMany nonpublic schools would relish the opportunity to serve greater numbers of students with disabilities.  Spurred by this desire, BOOST supporters heralded a 2018 change to the program to allow for higher scholarships specifically for students with special needs.
THOSE OPPOSED SAY: “Tax dollars shouldn’t go to nonpublic schools.”
              THE TRUTH: They are not. The money is going to taxpaying low-income PARENTS to support the educational options for their children through BOOST. Moreover, Maryland has always supported diversity in education and was one of only eleven states in the US never to have enacted a Catholic-discriminatory “Blaine Amendment” prohibiting assistance to nonpublic schools. Thus, there is nothing in our law that says nonpublic schools can’t be supported by our state.
HB 764. This year, I have filed a bill to establish a funding mandate for the BOOST program of $15 million annually. Normally, I will not even vote for a funding "mandate," because the practice of requiring the Governor to include various funds in the budget ties the governor's handsability to create a balanced budget. Mandates currently comprise over 83% of the operating budget. Nonetheless, the legislature's rationale for requiring funding be mandated is to require the Governor to give certain programs priority.

It is time to protect the BOOST program.
What is MANSEF?
Every year I meet with the representatives of MANSEF in Annapolis and am always struck by how Maryland wastes this precious asset.

MANSEF is a nonprofit organization of special education schools that are approved by the Maryland State Department of Education to serve students referred and funded by local public school systems. It provides a significant piece of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which mandates that a continuum of placements be available for students with disabilities and currently serves more than 3,800 students in almost 100 schools across the state -- each school focusing on one or more specific disabilities.
What is the "Least Restrictive Environment" (LRE")?
    For some reason, we seem to take it on faith that inclusion in a public school is either the only or the best fit for every child, regardless of disability or individual need.  
Public schools try very hard to accommodate the needs of every child but are occasionally unwilling to admit that a non-public school dedicated to teaching children with a specific disability might be able to better serve a child.

It's time we begin to really consider alternatives.
Unique benefits of nonpublic special education. Students feel much more included and valued when they are truly part of their school community. In nonpublic special education schools, students have a real opportunity to fully participate in all aspects of school life -- from sports, clubs, plays and school government to talent shows and the prom. They participate, not by being "assigned to a peer" or as someone's "buddy," but as a person, and individual -- and often, as the leader.

The outcomes tell the story. For example, recent data show that 63% of high school graduates have successfully enrolled in post-secondary education or technical school and apprenticeship setting -- nearly 20% higher than the national rate.  (for more results, see MANSEF post-secondary outcomes study, click here.)

Placement must be individually determined. A local public school system cannot unilaterally decide to bring all students placed at a nonpublic special education school back to an in-district program, nor can it decide that all students with a particular disability must be educated within its schools. Federal law requires the placement decision for each student to be made individually by the IEP team. Parents are a part of the process.
To Learn More About MANSEF Schools    
If you have any interest in -- or know someone who might be interested -- I strongly recommend taking a look at the MANSEF "Membership Directory," pictured to the right.  It is not only a comprehensive Directory, providing extensive information about each of its schools in Maryland, it also provides information that any parent of a child with a disability will want to know. For example, there is an excellent 4-page summary of "Understanding Special Education and Advocating for Your Child: a Brief Summary of the Special Education Process." 
Tips to Testifying
The work of the Maryland General Assembly is always open to the public; we are doing your work. We encourage you to participate. If there is a bill in which you are you are interested, you can always send an email. Testifying "in person" is an even more powerful way to affect legislation. This year, because of the pandemic, bill hearings are being held online, via Zoom. Although this change prevents the personal contact, there is an advantage in being able to testify "in person" without leaving your house. Here is some information on
  • All committee hearings will be available to watch live on YouTube and also among the various committees' own YouTube pages
  • Each committee has its own rules for submitting testimony and the procedures for (1) what bills are called, (2) the order they're called in, (3) when and who may testify, (4) for how long, and (5) any other conditions they deem necessary. 
  • To sign-up to testify on a bill, you must first make a MyMGA account. You will be asked to provide identifying information and a confirmation will be sent to your provided email address
  • The signup window for bills is only available two days ahead of a bill's hearing between the hours of 10am and 3pm.
You can find this information on each Committee's website. However, if you have any difficulty finding and/or understanding how to get signed up, please feel free to call my office and speak with my Legislative Aide, Chelsea Murphy (410-841-3556).
District 9A
Howard County News
Howard County plans phased-in school reopenings
The School Board unanimously approved a Hybrid reopening plan in their January 26 meeting. The hybrid plan will mean that no student who does not want to learn in person will be required to return to buildings. They will be able to continue with virtual learning. Every student will be offered a 100% virtual option.
Tentitive Plans have students in buildings two days a week
Only students most in need will be offered a 5-day option. The balance of students planning to return to in-person learning will be divided into two groups, with staggered schedules.

"A plurality of the system’s students. . . will likely be in the A-group/B-group plan. One group will learn in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, while the other will be in school buildings on Thursdays and Fridays. When group A is in classrooms, group B will be learning virtually, and vice versa. Educators will be teaching both their in-person and virtual students concurrently."
"Here’s what hybrid learning could look like for Howard County
students this spring," Baltimore Sun, Jan. 28, 2021
Under the current plans, Howard County schools will begin reopening on March 1 with the first of four phases.

The first phase:
  • students who most need in-person learning, such as students with individualized educational plans (IEPs).
  • These students will be in school buildings five days a week, with Wednesdays as a half-day. 

The second phase is currently scheduled to begin on March 15, and will include:
  • pre-kindergarten,
  • kindergarten, and
  • first grade and
  • second grade.
The third phase is planned to start on March 29 for the following grades:
  • grades 3 through 6,
  • grades 9 and 12, and
  • students who participate in the county’s Applications and Research Laboratory.
The final phase will begin on April 12 for the remaining grades:
  • grades 7, 8, 10, and 11.

Other precautions the schools plan to take are:
  • Providing students and staff with three-ply masks
  • Require students and staff to wear masks when in school buildings
  • Allow fewer students in classrooms for better social distancing.
Howard County Delegation Meeting
8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, February 3, 2021.
This meeting will be held virtually and will be streamed live on YouTube. The live stream will be accessible through the Maryland General Assembly website home page ( Scroll down to Today’s Calendar. Click on the arrow next to Committee Meetings under Other, and then select Howard. Next, click on the red Live! button, which will open the streaming video on YouTube. (The Live! button will appear when the meeting goes live.)
1.     Education Bills
a.     Ho. Co. 5-21 – Howard County – Board of Education – Redetermination of Geographic Attendance Area; Senator Lam
b.     Ho. Co. 7-21 – Howard County – School Redistricting – Public Testimony; Senator Lam
c.     Ho. Co. 11-21 – Howard County – Howard County – Commercial Building Excise Tax – Board of Education Deferred Maintenance; Delegate Atterbeary

 2.  Bills Held Over
a.     Ho. Co. 2-21 – Howard County – Class A Alcoholic Beverages Licenses – Quota by Election District; Senator Guzzone
b.     Ho. Co. 15-21 – Howard County - Fee for Rental Housing Services – Established; Delegates Feldmark and Terrasa
c.     Ho. Co. 10-21 – Howard County – Howard County Board of Education – School Safety Personnel; Delegate Atterbeary

 3. Legislative Bond Initiatives
a.     8125 Main Street Reconstruction and Renovation, Ho. Co. 18-21; $500,000
b.     Centennial Park ADA Improvements, Ho. Co. 19-21; $500,000
c.     Harriet Tubman Cultural Center Playground, Ho. Co. 20-21; $200,000
d.     Robinson Nature Center Amphitheater and Stage, Ho. Co. 21-21; $100,000
e.     Expanded Tiber Park, Ho. Co. 22-21; $500,000
f.      Patapsco Female Institute Chapel, Ho. Co. 23-21; $300,000
g.     Historic Barnard Fort House, Ho. Co. 24-21; $150,000
h.     East Columbia 50+ Center, Ho. Co. 25-21; $1,000,000
i.      Harriet Tubman Cultural Center, Ho. Co. 26-21; $750,000
j.      Ellicott City Quaker School, Ho. Co. 27-21; $150,000
Carroll County News
NEXT WEEK: A focus on Carroll County
Lowe House Office Building
Suite 202
10 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD 21401