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MEC letter to Dr. Salmon and the MSDE Recovery Plan leadership team - July 22, 2020

- Equity Principles to Anchor Return/Recovery Plan (Excerpt)

Dear Dr. Salmon:

Events of the past four months have laid bare a number of truths, some perhaps inconvenient, about the state of education in Maryland. Distance learning has revealed the extent of the digital divide as well as the difficulty of consistently engaging many students with disabilities, students who are homeless, students whose first language is not English and others in online learning. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others have forced many to confront, some for the first time, the racism inherent in the structures of American society, including the education system. The veto of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future creates the likelihood that, unless overridden, the funding structure for education in Maryland will remain problematic, the achievement gaps identified by MSDE itself will not only continue but will grow larger, and vulnerable students will, as they always have, pay the price. However, as is often the case, challenges also present opportunities. Amidst the confusion and chaos, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and local school systems have an opportunity to reshape what education looks like for all students and to engage in that process in a way that puts equity squarely at the center of the rebuilding process.

The Maryland Education Coalition (MEC), joined by a broad-based group of additional signatories, remains concerned, however, that so far, MSDE has not seized this opportunity. Although the July 16, 2020 Stakeholder group meeting addressed scenario planning with equity issues in mind, local school systems are already well along in their recovery/return planning efforts, and MSDE’s “Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Education,” fails to provide a strong foundation of equity upon which the local school systems can build their plans. The plan simply requires local school systems to develop their plans with equity in mind and references COMAR 13A.01.06, the 2019 equity regulations; the document will do little to prevent the current wave of crises from widening existing gaps in education outcomes into unbridgeable chasms. As it stands, “Maryland Together” is an invitation to local school systems to talk about equity without actually providing equity. MSDE should rise to the demands of this moment by announcing clear principles of equity and requiring local school systems to adhere to them. Although local school systems must, of course, retain the autonomy to determine how to implement these principles in accordance with the strengths and needs of their students, families and staff, it is essential that the State provide the framework.

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