Introduction:

The average public school in Maryland is underfunded by $2million, annually; the number of low-income students have doubled from 22% to 44% since 2002; and fewer than 40% of high school graduates are “college and career ready”. This is unacceptable.

Furthermore, at the start of the COVID pandemic, many of our educators had less than 48 hours to comply with shutdown orders and quickly replicate the functions of school outside of an actual school building — by reinventing their lessons, finding new methods of grading assignments and administering tests, all while continuing to “be there” for students and parents while also juggling their personal needs and those of their loved ones. And many students — especially in low-income neighborhoods — also did not have access to laptops, let alone broadband. We must do better!

Here is what my Relief, Recovery, and Reform platform will accomplish:

RELIEF

We need to reduce the teacher shortage, increase the pipeline of diverse educators, and decrease the student-teacher ratio. Each of these will not only result in better care for students, but also help ease the workload of our educators. There are several ways we can accomplish this:

One way to quickly and easily bring free broadband to students who need it — especially during these COVID times — is by utilizing our empty school buses as public hotspots for low-income communities.

I believe that if you pursue a career in teaching, your student loan debt should be forgiven. Your sacrifice to literally build our state’s future should be acknowledged and appreciated.

Maryland already has a “Student Debt Relief Tax Credit” which applies once to those with $20K in student loan debt. But the fact that our educators face an average of $40K in student loan debt — which is about $10K more than the average student loan debt of non-educators in the state — highlights the need to do better.

As such, I support student loan debt forgiveness — of between $5K-$10K — for those who teach in MD public school systems for 6 years, and which is not conditioned on full or on-time payments.

This would not only bring educator student debt more in line with the state average for post-secondary degrees, but will also encourage educators to stay in the profession past the attrition peak and become the high-quality, experienced educators we need.

Teaching is a highly specialized career, requiring extensive building and maintenance of our teachers’ skills across the state. This complexity is on top of myriad difficulties in the field: inadequate preparation; dissatisfaction with compensation; challenging working conditions; and increased barriers to entry.

In fact, according to The Learning Policy Institute, there was a 25% decrease in students who pursued education degrees in 2020.

To ease some of the barriers to entry, recruit more teachers from more backgrounds — especially as the number of students enrolling has steadily increased — one part of the solution can be to ease educational requirements.

Bachelor’s degrees are costly in both time and money, and student debt is the second largest source of installment debt in the US. Further, current teacher attrition and shortage rates indicate that the certification requirements and compensation are currently suboptimal.

As such, I believe we should allow holders of A.A.T. (Associates in the Art of Teaching) from accredited 2-year institutions (like Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and other county Community Colleges already provide) — or the equivalent credits and Education coursework — to take the Praxis I and II exams to achieve certification.

These programs have as much or more field-specific preparation as other MD-approved Alternative Teacher Preparation programs, which may have as little as a five week training program.

The AAT’s real support of pedagogy, curriculum, and instructional design will go a long way towards widening the pool of potential applicants, while still making sure our teachers are trained, qualified, and prepared for the specific challenges of teaching.

Maryland already allows standardized test scores to substitute for certain coursework requirements, and this policy would be no different. This policy also dovetails with the position on fully funding community colleges in the state, and lowering the student debt burden on our educators.

Many teachers and paraeducators can’t afford to live in the same city or county they teach, or even send their own kids to their classroom. This should not be the case, and I’ve outlined details on my plan in the Housing section.

RECOVERY

We must fully fund the Cade Formula.

At the moment, state funding of Maryland’s community colleges is based on the Senator John R. Cade funding formula, established as law in 1996. The Cade funding formula was created to provide community colleges with predictable support for operations and to provide students with affordable tuition. The Cade formula calculates state support for community colleges as a percentage of state support for designated University System of Maryland institutions, per full-time equivalent (FTE) student.

The intent of the Cade formula is that community college costs be divided into equal thirds between the state, local government, and the students. Unfortunately, due to budgetary constraints over the years, the Cade funding goal has typically not been met. Despite the formula, community colleges have experienced numerous reductions in state support, forcing higher student tuition and county contributions. In most budget cycles, BRFA legislation (Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act) has been introduced to balance the state budget. As a result, the year that full Cade funding would be achieved, has been pushed repeatedly into the future.

As it relates to the idea of “Free Community College” — while I want to make this happen, I have yet to see a feasible way to offer completely free community college.

Currently, our state budgets $15 million for the Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship (offers up to $5,000 if you meet certain requirements). I believe we should look into lowering and easing these requirements, as well as do a better job of increasing awareness of such programs.

Investing in Trade School programs is just as valuable as community college and 4-year universities. In these programs, students can learn Tech, Coding, Agriculture and Green job skills to prepare them for the future. This will also help offset any short-term job loss that could occur during my pledge to deactivate all coal power plants in our state (see “Climate Change” section).

Whether in a rural county, an urban county, or a suburban county that’s growing, children deserve a promising room ― warm, modern ― to go to school. Schools in every county in Maryland are in desperate need of renovations.Districts with the largest populations of black and brown students, like Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, have the oldest facilities in the state.

As such, I believe we need to work to prioritize funding for low-income neighborhoods, and I believe our budget should focus on maximizing the state’s use of land to build new or restore existing school buildings in overcrowded areas.

I also believe we need to extend Prevailing Wage Laws to include school construction projects. Prevailing wage laws assure that workers on public works projects are paid a wage that is most common or “prevailing” for a specific job in a specific geographic location. These laws also prevent contractors from undermining local employment by low bidding or bringing in workers at lower wages. Unfortunately, while the state of Maryland has prevailing wage laws, some counties currently exclude school construction projects. As such, we must close this loophole.

REFORM

Disappointingly, Governor Hogan vetoed the bipartisan bill in 2020 to adopt the sensible recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, which would have increased funding and support to our public education system. If elected Governor, I will fight to ensure these recommendations are passed and enforced.

Maryland needs Universal Pre-K across the state. Most children grow up in households where both parents work outside of the home, making outside care a necessity. Unfortunately, the cost of pre-k and childcare are too expensive. Furthermore, children with parents who speak another language have been less likely to enroll, thus creating a lag in kindergarten readiness and an increase in the opportunity gap.

By providing universal pre-k, we can reduce the financial burdens faced by our residents and ensure our children are prepared for their future (studies have shown that they will be better prepared for kindergarten, less likely to be placed in special education, less likely to repeat a grade, more likely to graduate from high school and even less likely to commit crimes) — thus reducing the opportunity gap by some of our low-income and minority families.

The Kirwan Commission estimated the cost of implementing Universal Pre-K would be $3.8 billion.

  • Some of this funding will come from the casino revenues (as was the original intent, and which generated over $540 million in 2019).
  • Some will come from lottery revenues (which generated over $1.1 billion in 2020, and aligns with how states like Virginia, Georgia and Nebraska fund their pre-k).
  • And some will come from the other funding sources I outlined in the “How to Fund” post.

Our schools should not feel like a prison, and our students should not be policed. Instead, I will work with our school systems to replace SROs with more Social Workers and Counselors — placing a higher priority on mental health and wellness. We should also ensure that all school buildings have a buzz-in system that will require all guests to “buzz in” to the main office before entering a school.

I am deeply opposed to privatization of our schools. I understand that the teachers in our public schools can serve as role models for our children, and I understand the important connections a capable, caring teacher can forge with a student. Handing over our prestigious school system to private contractors could threaten these bonds, making employees of the school system accountable to a corporation rather than the children and parents of our state.

Furthermore, privatization of our school system opens the door for contractors to be more sparing when it comes to wages and offering benefits. This could repel potential school system employees and quality educators already working within our school system, who could seek a job in a state with better pay and benefits. This also removes public accountability within our school systems.

2022 MD Governor Candidate — cancer survivor, MD native, public school grad, Obama-Biden alum #OurVoiceOurVote — Archana Gupta, Treas.

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