News from Annapolis
2017 Session:  Week 8                       Delegate Trent Kittleman - District 9A
Education Edition
  • More Money for Schools?
  • Going Backwards?
  • MANSEF: Non-Public Special Ed schools
  • Is Big Brother here to stay?
  • Binary Vision Bill passes Senate
  • Goings On
  • Legislative Scholarship Information
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More Money for Schools?
Baltimore City: How do we help?

      "Ho ward County and Carroll County students scored better last spring in nearly every grade and subject on Maryland's annual standardized tests.   Baltimore City schools . . .  had 20 percent or fewer students passing in most grades, while overall about 15 percent of students were passing the tests."      (read article)
           Students in District 9A have great teachers, great facilities, diversity, special ed, parents who care, as well as adequate financing.  We are very lucky.
          But Baltimore City isn't.  
         It is important that all of us understand and share concern for what is happening to the schoolchildren of Baltimore City, because generation after generation of these children is being wasted - needlessly!
         Insanity is often defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting, ultimately, to get a different result.  That is what this state has been doing for over 40 years - pouring more and more money into the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) expecting education to improve.  
         It doesn't!
         A March 1, 2017 article by Christopher Summers in the Baltimore sun titled "For Maryland Schools, more money isn't the answer," notes:
" The BCPSS is beset by poor school performance, massive deficits and financial mismanagement.  Yet officials are pleading for more money, as if the lives in their care are merely statistics to be manipulated for a bailout instead of individuals who aspire to one day hold a job, provide for their families and lead the city."
Since 1978, when the state created a funding formula to account for differences in local wealth and equalize funding across all districts, Baltimore City Schools have failed their students.   Every new effort to bring education parity to the children of Baltimore City has attempted to do so by demanding more funding.  Every demand has been met.  And every such effort has FAILED.
  • In a 1981 lawsuit by the Baltimore City School System (BCPSS) (along with Somerset, Caroline and St. Mary's counties) sued the State for more funding on the basis that the constitution required the state to provide a school system in a "thorough and efficient" manner, and won
  • In a 1994 lawsuit by the ACLU and BCPSS again alleged that the City students were not receiving "an adequate education" because of flaws in the funding formula; the court agreed that the City public school children were not receiving an "adequate" education.
  • The 1994 lawsuit resulted in the "City-State Partnership Agreement" in which the BCPSS got an additional $254 million over five years - in exchange for restructuring the BCPSS as an "independent entity" rather than a City agency, and having the system run by a school board appointed by both the Governor and the Mayor, rather than just the Mayor of the City.
  • In 1997, the Agreement was made into law.
  • In 2000, the ACLU returned to court arguing that the state was "still not providing the children of Baltimore City . . . a constitutionally adequate education."
  • The court deferred to the state's newly created "Thornton Commission," that was charged with determining how to ensure adequate funding, reduce funding inequities among school districts, and ensure excellence in school systems and student performance.
  • In 2002, the General Assembly enacted the "Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act," implementing the recommendations of the Thornton to dramatically increase school funding and created a wealth-equalizing formula for the distribution of state funds.
         It is now 15 years since the Thornton funding has been in effect.  Baltimore City now spends $15,564 per pupil - the fourth highest per-student expenditure out the 100 largest school districts in the nation.  Baltimore City teachers are paid the highest average salary in the state. 
         And yet, The BCPSS deficit is projected to be $129 million this year, the largest in two decades of almost constant massive annual deficits.   "And then there was the scathing federal audit in 2013 that found that BCPSS spent thousands on dinner cruises, makeovers and meals that should have been directed to the classroom."  (Summer's article)  
         Notwithstanding, the newest study commissioned by the state to update Thornton thinks that the state should give Baltimore an extra $434 million per year! 
          "Feeling good about ourselves for ostensibly leveling the financial playing field as a state didn't resolve the glaring inequality of academic achievement between rich and poor and minority and white students under Thornton, and the only thing higher mandated spending will do is further harm the state budget." (Summers article)
Going Backwards?
HB 978 - Protect our Schools Act?

        This past Friday, the House passed what is called the "Protect our Schools Act" of 2017.   
        This bill would create a new plan for evaluating our schools, and addressing problem schools.  
        I voted against this bill because it takes us backward instead of forward, and is more focused on protecting the status quo than helping our children.
Here is what the bill does:

The first and foremost goal of our school system is to educate our kids to read, write, and understand at least enough history, math and science to function in today's world.  School "evaluations" should tell us "is my child learning?"  This is called an "outcome."
Outputs v. Outcomes.  Currently, school assessments must "adequately measure the skills and knowledge set forth in the State's adopted curricula for a core content area."  How many skills and how much knowledge a child actually learns are outcomes.
        THIS bill introduces a new measure of "accountability" that focuses on "outputs," instead of "outcomes."  In other words, it focuses on what the school does to foster education, rather than whether these efforts are successfully educating.  Indeed, it flatly states that "academic indicators may not exceed 55% [initially 51% before amended] of a school evaluation.
        Instead, it establishes "quality indicators" such as class size, case load, school climate surveys, chronic absenteeism, and opportunities.  While we all hope our schools have these indicators, they are only collaterally indicative of a student's success.  Good teachers are the best measure.  But the only way to measure a "good teacher" is by the academic success of his or her students!

Eliminates Alternatives.  The primary reason I dislike this bill is that it specifically prohibits the public school system from trying anything different!  
        The bill addresses what to do if a school is failing.  It says that if a school is failing after two years, the school must consult to develop additional strategies (focused on additional funding).  If the school continues to fail, the response is to determine the "appropriate intervention strategy."  One would think that after three or more attempts, most of the available strategies would have been tried.
        What happens if the school still continues to fail??? Well, the bill does not address what to do next.  Instead, it address what you MAY NOT DO!
        No school intervention strategy may include:
  • Converting a public school to a charter school; 
  • Issuing scholarships to public school students to attend nonpublic schools through direct vouchers, tax credit programs, or education savings accounts; 
  • Creating a state-run school district;
  • Creating a local school system in addition to the 24 established school systems;
  • Converting or creating a new public school without local board approval;
  • Contracting with a for-profit company.

The issue of charter schools (or vouchers) is certainly controversial, and you may not believe that such choices are the best answer to the problem.

        But I have to ask you, for the children in the myriad failing schools in Baltimore City as well as elsewhere around this great state, how much worse can it get!?  We've wasted almost 40 years of children hoping that we can buy our way into a good education, and IT HASN'T WORKED!

       Maryland has the strictest charter school law in the country.  There are only 13 such schools in the City.  Getting in to one of them is done by lottery because every year, there are twice as many kids who want to go than there are places for them to go to.

        I understand why the education association opposes charter schools; they believe charter schools would undermine public education.

        I don't.  I have enormous faith in most of our public school system.  Few children in Howard or Carroll counties would have any interest whatsoever in leaving their schools.  Charter schools would prove competitive in some areas, but that would serve to incentivize that part of the public school system that could be better.  

        But for everyone else, let's put away those philosophical prejudices that put public education up on a pedestal so high that no tinkering is allowed.  Does allegiance to the concept of "public education" mean that no changes can be made, regardless of how many kids the public education system fails?  

        I sincerely hope not.

Do You Know about MANSEF ?
its the  Maryland Association of Nonpublic Special Education Facilities

        Many, MANY, years ago, a very good friend of mine had a child with dyslexia.  I didn't know much about it then, but I knew she sent him to a private school called Jemicy.  Her son went there for several years, then returned to school in Howard County, did very well, and continues to do so, today.  
        She could afford to send her son to this expensive private school.  Not everyone can.
        It's wonderful that, since then, public schools have been charged with providing an education for everyone, including children with special needs.  And they are doing a great job.  Nonetheless, it is difficult for a school to be all things to all people.  Special ed teachers are becoming overwhelmed with the constantly expanding efforts  to create, analyze, report and ensure compliance with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for any student with a special need.         
        Often, parents aren't satisfied with the efforts of the school and lengthy negotiations are required, sometimes resulting in an agreement all can agree on.  But sometimes, not.  
        And while it is generally best for a child with special needs to attend their neighborhood school with their friends, it is not always the right choice when their special need can't be adequately addressed in that setting.
        This is where parents should be aware of what I believe is an often unknown and unused resource, so they can make the best determination of what is best for their child.
        The schools of MANSEF are an alternative not always made known to the parents.   MANSEF is a not-for-profit organization of more than 100 nonpublic special education facilities approved by the Maryland State Department of Education.  These facilities, throughout Maryland, promote quality services for children and youth with disabilities. They serve more than 3,000 students between the ages of 2 and 21 who require the most intensive services for a range of disabilities including: * Emotional disabilities * Learning disabilities * Multiple disabilities * Autism * Intellectual disabilities.  
          These special education schools, located across the state, have the experience and expertise to provide high-quality services that are customized to meet each student's needs .
         These schools are publicly funded by contributions both from the local jurisdiction in which a student who is referred to one of these schools lives and from the state.  The amount of money directed to these schools does not account for capital costs; it does not allow for teacher salaries to be comparable to those of public school teachers; it does not account for the fact that class size in these schools is smaller than in public schools, and it does not take into account the fact that these schools serve their students 11 months of the year, rather than nine months.  Nonetheless, the education standards of these schools are required to "meet or exceed" those of public schools.
          Unfortunately, regardless of the need for these schools, they are disfavored by a legislature that scorns the very idea of nonpublic school, and adds language to the budgets that there can be "no increase in rates to providers of nonpublic placements . . . over the rates in effect on June 30, 2014."
Where are the MANSEF Schools?
How successful are these schools?
MANSEF students achieving better outcomes than a broad sampling of U.S. students with less severe disabilities      

        The study, "Post-school Outcomes of Students from MANSEF-Member Nonpublic Special Education Programs up to Three Years After High School," was conducted by Deborah Carran, Professor of Education at Johns Hopkins University.
         The study followed students for three years after graduation and found that students had higher rates of post-secondary education, employment and living independently. And students who had attended nonpublic special education schools had less interaction with the legal system than students with disabilities who attended public schools.
The study found that:
  • 59 percent of MANSEF students surveyed had enrolled in post-secondary education.
  • 53 percent of MANSEF youth surveyed were employed within two years of high school graduation.
  • 13 percent of MANSEF students were living independently.
  • Only 13 percent of MANSEF students had had an interaction with the criminal justice system.
Click here to download the study
Is Big Brother here to stay?
Collecting data on students & teachers

        In 2010, the Maryland legislature passed a bill creating the "Maryland Longitudinal Data System" to collect and link student data from all levels of education and into the State's workforce.  
        In order to get the bill passed, it had to be amended to provide that the information collected in the database would be kept no longer than five years.   
About the Law.   Each teacher and student in Maryland's public school system is assigned a unique identifier called a SASID for students and a SATID for teachers. 
        Here is the original list of information to be collected on each individual student:

Student Data
  • State and national assessments
  • Course-taking and completion
  • Grade point average
  • Remediation
  • Retention
  • Degree, diploma, or credential attainment
  • enrollment, and
  • Demographic Data
Workforce Data
  • Employment status
  • Wage information
  • Geographic location of employment; and
  • Employer information
Changes to the Law.   One of the primary problems with programs such as this is the fact that they continue to grow and expand into areas never contemplated -- or specifically forbidden -- in the original bill.  
          For example, in 2015, the system expanded its database sources, and began to include data from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA):
" With the inclusion of demographic data from the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Center improved its cross sector match rate. Specifically, for Maryland public high school 12th graders, the Center is able to match 92% of them to a higher education record, a workforce record, or both."
 (from Report to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly Regarding  The Development 
of the Maryland Longitudinal Data System & Center December 2015.)
          The 2016 Annual Report on the Maryland Longitudinal Data System and Center concluded that there are "data gaps," and suggests that they now need to collect (1) student discipline data, and (2) private school and homeschool data for pre-K-12.
        In the original bill, student discipline data was specifically excluded.

        The 2016 Annual Report also concludes that the requirement limiting the linkage of student data and workforce data to five years from the last date a student attends a Maryland educational institution is too short --  way too short. 
        This recommendation has led to today's HB 680, the Maryland Longitudinal Data System - Student and Workforce Data Linkage - Extension of Time Limit. Despite the specifically added assurance in the original bill that this data would be kept no more than five years, we are now preparing to extend that time limit to 20 years!    This bill passed the House this past Friday on a vote of 100 to 37.
Is This a Good Idea?

          According to the sponsors, the reason we are collecting such extensive data on students and teachers is to analyze what teaching works best to lead students to a good job later in life.
         Maybe it's worth it.
         But I have very serious concerns about the government collecting such extensive personal data on children starting from about three years of age and continuing for the next 34 years.
          There are all sorts of levels of privacy protection set forth in the bills, and I have no doubt that these efforts are sincerely applied and maintained. Nonetheless, as we have seen over the last several years, computerized data is always -- and apparently, fairly easily -- subject to being hacked, stolen, or sold.  
          This is an issue that demands for more public discussion.  Now may be the time to engage.
Binary Vision Screening Bill Passes Senate
Atticus Act makes headway

        The Senate version of the Atticus Act that was cross-filed by Senator Gail Bates passed out of committee unanimously, and also passed on the floor of the Senate by a unanimous vote.

        The Atticus Act is my bill to require schools to screen for binary vision disorders in addition to the accuity screening they already do.  HB 458, was heard by the House Ways & Means Committee on February 14, but has not yet come up for a vote.  

        After the hearing, we proposed a number of amendments to address the issues expressed by the committee.  If you are interested in seeing the amendments or to read the bill as it has been amended (in Senate Bill 604), you can do so here. 

         In order to become law, a bill must pass both houses.  So we are working to encourage the Ways & Means committee to vote on my bill (HB 458) and to vote out SB 604.  This is a good, bipartisan bill that needs to pass.  

Goings on 
Overcoming Obstacles . . .

         I thoroughly enjoy preparing this Newsletter every week, but I thought I would share with you the huge obstacles I have to to overcome in my effort.
        They are my two kittens.
         At least they are asleep in this photo, and I can type around Boo's head.  It is still a challenge to refer to the notes on my papers because they always seem to be under a kitten. 
        I spend a lot of time picking kittens off of my desk and onto the floor, only to find them back on my desk within seconds.  I know, I know; I could be tougher.  
        But how can I resist.  
        So please understand if your next issue of the Newsletter is covered with cat hair.  I don't know if it gets through the Internet, but I wouldn't be surprised.
Scholarship Information
District 9A residents attending a college, university, trade school or equivalent in the State of Maryland are eligible for the Delegate Scholarship.

Current high school seniors and full-time (12+ credits per semester) or part-time (6-11 credits per semester), degree-seeking under-graduate students, graduate students, and students attending a private career school may apply. 
Click here for the application. For questions regarding the application process, please call my Annapolis office and ask to speak with Chelsea Leigh Murphy at 410-841-3556.  

Please be sure to have your completed application postmarked by  April 10, 2017.
Delegate Trent Kittleman
District 9A, Western Howard County and Southern Carroll County (Sykesville)
Room 202, Lowe House Office Building
6 Bladen Street,   Annapolis, MD 21401
410-841-3556  *   Trent.Kittleman@House.State.MD.US
Interim Office
3000 Kittleman Lane,  West Friendship, MD 21794
301-661-3344  *
Administrative AideChelsea Leigh Murphy