Maryland Education Coalition
2019 Public Policy Platform*
Rick Tyler, Jr., Chair
Adequate Funding & Equal Educational Opportunity - The Maryland Constitution states that: “The General Assembly…shall by Law establish throughout the State a thorough and efficient System of Free Public Schools; and shall provide by taxation, or otherwise, for their maintenance.” Also, local jurisdictions of varying wealth, historically had been a major source of funding for public schools, creating inequitable educational opportunities throughout Maryland.
We believe all children are entitled to equal educational opportunities. This requires the allocation of greater resources for effective programs in schools serving the most vulnerable students. Public funding must ensure adequate, equitable, high-quality educational services for all children, including students with disabilities, English language learners, gifted & talented or economically disadvantaged. Adequate funding must enable all school systems to comply with COMAR regardless of wealth.
To achieve these goals, the State must maintain and improve the funding formula in the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act of 2002, so no student is under-served or under-represented. Schools must also serve students without discrimination, eliminating any barriers to enrollment for children who are placed in a new home including those designated by the state, foster care, homeless, migrant, and undocumented children.
Alternative Education and Dropout Prevention - Maryland cannot afford the loss of human potential, which results from unacceptable dropout rates within all student groups. The State should provide increased financial and programmatic incentives for local systems to develop early intervention strategies and alternative programs for low-achieving, chronically absent, and at-risk students. Local school systems must also develop and maintain high-quality career, technology or vocational programs for students who are not college-bound.
Challenging Programs for All - The State, in cooperation with the local school systems, has a responsibility to meet the educational needs of all children, including Lower-income, Special Needs, Limited English students, Gifted & Talented and Twice Exceptional children. All students must be universally screened for Gifted & Talented by third grade based on COMAR. The talents and abilities of all children should be recognized and supported with challenging, appropriate academic options using evidence-based practices.
Charter Schools - Charter schools must be subject to the same teaching acumen as well as academic and fiscal accountability standards as are traditional public schools without discrimination against any student group.
Child/Sex Abuse or Neglect - Schools have the responsibility to establish clear expectations and training for all staff so they recognize and report abuse and neglect in accordance with all laws in a timely manner.
Discrimination – MEC opposes discrimination by age, culture, economic status, educational background, ethnicity, gender, geographic location, language, marital status, mental ability, national origin, parental status, physical ability, political philosophy, race, religion, sexual orientation, & work experience.
Discipline - Though suspension and expulsion rates have improved in some areas of the state, too many children continue to be pushed out of school. These children, often denied crucial instructional time, are disproportionately students of color, lower-income, students with disabilities and even gifted & talented.
Once suspended, these children are at significant risk of disengaging from school, dropping out, acting inappropriately or entering the criminal justice system.
Schools should use exclusionary consequences only as a last resort. Whenever possible, suspensions and expulsions should be replaced by more appropriate and meaningful techniques, such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), restorative practices, bullying prevention, conflict resolution & peer mediation, designed to keep kids in school and learning with trained, effective oversight.
Early Intervention and Pre-Kindergarten - Early childhood education is critical to the academic and social development of children. Research shows that early intervention and pre-kindergarten programs leads to greater success in school and life. Therefore, developmentally appropriate pre-kindergarten, Head Start, and other early intervention programs should be available for all children in Maryland. All Pre-K & primary grade students must be universal screened for reading using evidence-based practices. Qualified eye and hearing exams referrals should be made available for students not meeting age and academic milestones and pre-school education programs should be coordinated with state approved child care and other services as needed.
Equity and Equality – MEC believes all education funding and public policy decisions must apply the equity principal of fairness using equality principles that reduces achievement, learning, & opportunity gaps between all student groups regardless of communal, culture, economic, familial, linguistic & racial status*
Family and Community Involvement – The federal ESSA law requires and MEC supports family and community involvement in schools and education policy that provides for meaningful participation of parents, students, community members, principals, teachers, & other staff in the decision-making process, promoting an environment in which parents are valued as essential partners in their children's education and development.
Every school district and school should have an effective and adequately supported program to welcome, involve, inform, and support families and their students using best practices.
Family and Community Services - The State Department of Education and local school systems should support school-based, community, and government linked services that meet student and family social, emotional & physical health needs though collaboration among families, students, school personnel, community leaders, social or health care specialists, and others from other nonprofit or government agencies. including community, summer & before/after-school programs.
Public Funds for Public Schools - MEC supports adequate, equitable investment of public money in public and approved private special needs schools only - essential for teaching the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for our children to be contributing members in our communities, without discrimination and opposes the use of any public operating or capital funds for vouchers, tax credits, or tax subsidies for all other non-public, private, parochial or home schools.
Pupil Transportation - Transportation is necessary to assure equal educational opportunity. Therefore, the State should provide substantial support and base its grants on the current need for and costs of providing transportation with safety as a priority for eligible public-school children throughout Maryland
Recruitment & Retention of School Personnel - To attract and retain talented, motivated, and effective teachers, principals, and other school-based personnel, the State, in partnership with every school district, should ensure a compensation package (salaries and benefits) that is competitive with those offered to other professionals with comparable levels of education and professional licenses in their geographical region.
Each district should have a salary scale and a benefits package that adequately supports entry-level personnel, appropriately rewards experienced staff, and is balanced and fair across district lines. Local education authorities should implement exit interviews.
School Construction - A safe and supportive learning environment is a factor in ensuring equal educational opportunity. The State should allocate ample funds for school construction, renovation, and systematic replacements in a way that treats children from every jurisdiction fairly and equitably and that ensures adequate, attractive, physically accessible, environmentally comfortable, technologically appropriate, and well-maintained space for instruction and school-based family and community services.
MEC also supports smaller learning communities within larger school facilities with appropriate program offerings, facility modifications, staffing, and instructional resources.
School Performance and Accountability - The overall goal of student assessment and testing programs should be to improve instruction and increase learning. Assessments should be used to increase the opportunities for students and should not be used as the primary method of evaluating teachers nor as punitive tools for school systems, schools, staff or students.
All assessments or tests must be independently evaluated for cultural, linguistic or racial bias and used in an unbiased, scientifically valid manner. The amount of classroom time devoted to testing students should not exceed a point where it undermines instruction and learning.
Testing alone cannot be the only tool to measure the success of a school, however, which is why it is essential that MSDE should select School Quality and Student Success Indicators, as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which will provide a clearer picture of the student experience in a school and areas for improvement.
School Leaders & Central Office Staff - Quality school leaders are essential to the performance of schools; therefore, they should be adequately trained and evaluated, and recognized for their accomplishments in the educational system. School systems should implement long-term strategies to develop leaders at all levels including teachers, principals, support staff, and central administrators.
School Personnel Preparation and Development - High standards, rigorous preparation, self-discipline, and ongoing professional development are the hallmarks of a strong profession. The State should set high entry standards for educators, encourage professionals at all levels to participate in the formation and enactment of policies regarding preparation, certification, and development, that promote professional development opportunities. We also support the use of alternative paths by which an individual with a baccalaureate degree may enter the teaching profession and become certified.
School Safety & Climate - MEC supports the allocation of funds that will help to improve school safety and climate, as determined school by school. We do not believe there is enough evidence that deployment of School Resource Officers (SROs) is always the right solution for maintaining safe schools. Local decision-makers are in the best position to create safety plans designed to develop positive school climates, keep kids in school and learning, and the decriminalization of students. The State should specify & standardize between all districts, the type of incidents addressed by SRO/Police versus school administrators or staff.
Special Education - The State, in cooperation with the local systems, has the responsibility to meet the educational needs of all children, including those with learning, physical, emotional, and mental disabilities. The State should provide leadership, direction, guidance, funding, and monitoring of local systems to assure that all students with disabilities are provided a high quality, free, and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment with post-secondary opportunities.
* MEC Platform Public Policies are not an endorsement of specific legislation, regulations or other policies,
MEC membership does not necessarily imply endorsement of all MEC positions