Candidate questionnaire from WCTA/WCESP
- With a critical need in closing education gaps, expanding programs and services, community schools, and improving student achievement, in 2016, lawmakers formed the Kirwan Commission to meet the challenges of a changing global economy and prepare Maryland students to be successful citizens in the 21st century.
- The Kirwan Commission’s recommendations evolved into The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which originally passed in 2020, was vetoed by Governor Hogan, and had its veto overridden in 2021. The Blueprint revises the state’s school funding formula for the first time in nearly two decades. Over the next 13 years, the Blueprint calls for billions of dollars of new investment in Maryland schools that would expand career and technical education programs, community schools, and pre-k; provide more resources for students from backgrounds of poverty and students with special needs; increase educator pay; hire more educators and expand and diversify the educator pipeline; and create a new, more rigorous accountability system. These programs are designed to raise achievement and address Maryland’s economic inequality with programs to target concentrated poverty.
- The County [Name of Office] will have a significant impact on the implementation of the Blueprint, and the future funding and success of Washington County schools. The Blueprint is landmark legislation, but there is a continued need for investment in Washington County schools to see that the Blueprint is successfully implemented, and in ensuring that educator voices are heard and respected throughout implementation.
1. Please provide your general and specific thoughts on how the county can address the unmet needs facing our schools. Detail how you would prioritize aid for education in your budget deliberations.
WCPS faces unmet financial needs on two fronts. First, there’s providing the local matching funds mandated by the Blueprint. Second, to address the 80-100 year replacement cycle for school buildings, there’s the need to dramatically increase the local match for capital improvement projects.
I would prioritize education funding as essential and advocate for fully funding BOE budget requests. A large portion of surpluses should be dedicated to school capital funding.
Another unmet need is for the commissioners themselves, and the community at large to value public education. I hope to encourage the other commissioners to value our public schools not only as beneficial to our county’s children but also as an economic driver to attract better paying jobs. The BOCC must then demonstrate that fact in both its budget and in public recognition of school system achievements. A first step to increase parental and community support of our schools and educators is for our county leaders to demonstrate that support themselves.
2. During the implementation of The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, each county will need to provide money to cover their local share for the Blueprint. What is your plan to meet your county’s required local share?
Since this is state-mandated spending, the county is required to fund the local share.
First, in joint work sessions with the BOE, the BOCC must become informed of the county’s responsibilities and obligations as mandated in the Blueprint. Next, the two boards must determine (as best as can be estimated based on the evolving Blueprint) what the yearly local share is projected to be over the life of the Blueprint. Finally, immediately begin planning how to fund that required spending.
Throughout this process the BOCC and BOE should actively participate in the near-certain legislative tweaking of the Blueprint that will take place.
3. There is considerable room for improvement in addressing educator recruitment and retention. Class sizes have increased because of cost-cutting measures and/or due to hiring freezes, layoffs, and retirements. Many support personnel positions have been eliminated. And Maryland is always challenged with filling educator jobs because we import nearly half of all certificated teachers from prep programs in other states. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated these shortages. At the same time, the Blueprint calls for the hiring of 15,000 additional educators to provide more individualized attention to students. The regional job market is extremely competitive, and WCPS is struggling to offer competitive compensation. How will you address critical concerns with educator recruitment and retention?
In addition to budgetary support, I will advocate for the county to develop and invest in a “Grow Your Own” plan to not only help address educator shortages, but also law enforcement, EMS, mental health, and even county employee shortages.
I will also do what I can to see that the BOCC demonstrates that our county values all educators, including administrators, teachers, and ESPs.
4. Do you support or oppose Maryland’s updated maintenance of effort law that requires local jurisdictions to fund the local share of all wealth-equalized formulas, instead of only the foundation formula?
___X__ Support _____ Oppose
I also support the state paying as large a percentage of the costs as possible.
Public Funding for Private Schools
- WCTA/WCESP believes any education dollars spent outside of improving public schools makes it harder to make the progress necessary to provide a world-class education for every student.
- The Maryland State Department of Education requires a certificate of approval or registration for private schools; it does not accredit or license them. Private schools do not have to report or administer teacher qualifications, class sizes, adherence to College and Career State Standards, student retention rates, graduation rates, demographics, or discipline or suspension policies. Without these measures, it is impossible to ascertain the standards to evaluate any of the funded programs funneling public tax dollars to private schools.
- Carroll County Commissioners created a $400,000 “Educational Opportunities Fund” to enhance and enrich the educational opportunities for home- and private-schooled students. WCTA/WCESP is opposed to this type of diversion of public funding with no accountability.
5. Do you support or oppose allocating public funding to home and privately schooled students?
______ Support __X__ Oppose
Oppose, with the exception of public funds for the placement of those special needs students who are best served outside of the public school system.
- WCTA/WCESP supports efforts to protect and enhance the collective bargaining rights.
- Collective bargaining is the negotiation of a contract – including wages, salary scale, benefits, and working conditions – between employers and employees. The items agreed to in a ratified collective bargaining agreement apply to all employees in a bargaining unit, providing a benefit to employees and employers in not having to negotiate thousands of individual contracts.
6. Do you support or oppose public education employees’ rights to bargain collectively?
__X___ Support _____ Oppose
I was a WCTA, MSEA, NEA member for 40 years.
Continuing Impact of the Pandemic
- The pandemic has exacerbated a pre-existing, multifaceted housing crisis. Housing costs continue to rise, keeping some families out of the market entirely, while those whose incomes were slashed during the pandemic have fallen so far behind that the Census Bureau estimates 7 million households as of late June 2021 face eviction when the temporary moratorium on eviction enacted during the pandemic is lifted.
- The pandemic has also increased stresses, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), food insecurity, and digital divide issues for our students.
- The pandemic has exacerbated a pre-existing, multifaceted housing crisis. Housing costs continue to rise, keeping some families out of the market entirely, while those whose incomes were slashed during the pandemic have fallen so far behind that the National Equity Atlas estimates approximately 129,000 Maryland households, as of August 2021, are behind on rent and face possible eviction when the temporary moratorium on eviction enacted during the pandemic is lifted.
7. How will your budget address increased needs for mental health supports for students and educators in the wake of the pandemic?
My intention is to fully fund a BOE budget that includes those mental health supports. In addition, I will support mental health funding for the Washington County Health Department.
8. Safe and affordable housing is necessary for all students to be able to succeed in school. What is your position on affordable housing and how it relates to education?
Housing security is necessary for kids to be successful in school. The county should support safe and affordable housing for families.
9. The pandemic further illuminated the immediate need for reliable, affordable access to technology for all students and educators in our state. How would you propose to eliminate the digital divide?
The county should partner with local providers in seeking state and federal grants to expand broadband coverage. The county should investigate adding broadband availability as a requirement for future zoning updates.
Racial and Social Justice
- WCTA/WCESP unequivocally believes that our diversity makes us stronger. We fundamentally believe that schools should be safe, welcoming, and nurturing learning environments for students of all backgrounds and beliefs, and places where all our students see themselves in the lessons they learn and experiences they enjoy. While students of color made up approximately 64% of the student population across the state in school year 2019-2020, our state had only 29% teachers of color, 38% principals of color, and 45% assistant principals of color. MSEA was represented on the Kirwan Commission and a vocal advocate of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future in part because of our support for training and developing high-quality teachers and education leaders, particularly those from diverse and historically underrepresented backgrounds.
- Every child, regardless of their background or zip code, deserves education justice and equitable access to opportunities, resources, and supports. We believe that the lives of our Black and Brown students matter and that all our students have a fundamental right to be educated in safe, healthy, and supportive learning communities and all our educators deserve safe, healthy, and supportive working environments.
- Maryland and U.S. history are far more diverse than is generally reflected in the content and courses currently taught in our public schools. Far too many Marylanders can progress through their formal primary and secondary education and rarely, if ever, see themselves reflected in the content they are learning or hear about themselves in the stories they read and are told. This lack of inclusivity negatively impacts not only our students’ ownership of and agency in their learning, but it also adversely impacts their overall engagement in their learning and portrays a one-sided view of our history for all students. This disconnect is further exacerbated by the dearth of a more diverse field of educators in our schools and by the disproportionate (and sometime inaccurate) representations seen in society and in our culture that ultimately reinforces a sense of “otherness” for the people, communities, and cultures who have been rendered less relevant and less valuable. WCTA/WCESP recognizes the vital importance of ensuring that all students learn about historical figures who not only had a tremendous impact on the forming of our state and our nation but whose actions and sacrifices laid the foundation upon which this nation’s pledge of “liberty and justice for all” must be built.
- WCTA/WCESP committed to developing critical thinking skills in our students because we know that they enable them to better understand the problems our society faces and to develop collective solutions. To that end, we are abundantly clear that truth and honesty are fundamental components of teaching and learning, as are academic integrity and professional responsibility. Our essential mission is to prepare our students for college, career, and life and to play an active role in our democracy.
10. WCTA/WCESP supports honesty in education. To encourage critical thinking, we believe educators should have professional autonomy and should be afforded the deference to teach the truth in their classrooms, schools, and districts. Do you support or oppose this position?
_X___ Support _____ Oppose
Critical thinking is more important than ever. Teachers need support in teaching students how to think, not what to think.
11. How will you support diversity, equity, and inclusion for all students throughout the county? What specific policies do you support whose goals are focused on providing equitable access, opportunities, resources, and supports?
The BOCC must embrace and support diversity, equity and inclusion in its official actions, hiring practices, and appointments to its various boards, commissions, and committees. I will be a strong voice in support of that. Additionally, I will advocate for the BOCC’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee to be renewed and elevated from its current token status.
- Poverty dramatically and negatively affects the wellbeing of children, particularly in the areas of physical health, mental health, safe housing, access to technology, parental support, family planning services, nutrition, youth employment, and education. Each of these areas play a large role in whether students can learn and do well in school—making it imperative that these opportunity gaps be closed if we want to provide an equitable education in our communities. According to data collected by MSDE, 48% of Maryland public school students were enrolled for free and reduced-price meals this school year (meaning their family income level is at or below 185% of federal income poverty guidelines).
- WCTA/WCESP supports the establishment of community schools, where applicable, which are designed to close these opportunity gaps by making the school a hub for essential services that students in disadvantaged communities lack.
- Community schools generally have the following four components: (1) they serve a high concentration of students in poverty; (2) they employ a full-time coordinator to lead community school-related services; (3) they conduct a needs assessment to identify key obstacles to learning and the services needed to close the opportunity gaps; and (4) they work with community partners to bring those needed services into the school building or nearby locations to make them accessible to students and community members.
- The Blueprint phases in community schools beginning in FY20, starting with 219 schools with 80% or more of their students enrolled for free and reduced-price meals. Community schools will be added, phased in according to highest levels of poverty first, until FY27, when a predicted 557—nearly one-third of all schools in the state—are projected to become community schools. That makes this one of the largest scale expansions of community schools in the nation.
- The American Rescue Plan provided additional funding to assist with the expansion of small group instruction delineated in the Blueprint. Of these funds, at least 20% must be used to address pandemic-associated learning gaps through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs.
- WCTA/WCESP supports equitable and adequate resources to provide every student with an opportunity to learn in a safe and non-disruptive environment. Establishing and funding community schools is a research-based strategy for closing opportunity gaps and building strong communities.
12. Do you support or oppose local efforts to create and support community schools in areas of concentrated poverty?
__X___ Support _____ Oppose
Parental Involvement and Public Support
- It is calculated that school age children spend 70% of their waking hours (including weekends and holidays) outside of school.
- Research shows that the most consistent predictors of children’s academic achievement and social adjustment are parental involvement in schools and parental expectations of the child’s academic attainment and satisfaction with their child’s education at school.
- Additionally, research indicates there are three major factors that influence parental involvement in schools:
- Parents’ belief that they can impact what is important, necessary on behalf of their children school.
- The extent to which parents believe that they can have a positive influence on their children’s education; and
- Parents’ perceptions that their children and school want them to be involved.
13. What would you do to increase parental involvement and public support for our public schools and educators?
I hope to encourage the other commissioners to value our public schools not only as beneficial to for our county’s children but also as an economic driver to attract better paying jobs. The BOCC must then demonstrate that fact in both its budget and in public recognition of school system achievements. A first step to increase parental and community support of our schools and educators is for our county leaders to demonstrate that support themselves.
- WCTA/WCESP opposes any effort to outsource or privatize education jobs that are part of a bargaining unit. We maintain that any attempt to outsource or privatize jobs of public educators violates collective bargaining agreements because such an effort is in essence terminating or firing bargaining unit positions.
- Outsourcing and privatization efforts have threatened teacher and education support professional (ESP) jobs for years. In the last few years, Anne Arundel County has attempted to outsource teaching services for deaf and blind students, Talbot County has discussed privatizing transportation services, and Kent County has attempted to privatize custodial services. There have been multi-county efforts on the Eastern Shore to outsource the hiring of occupational therapists and physical therapists to work in the schools.
- When jobs are outsourced, quality control is diminished, and safety is compromised. Public employees are subject to background checks that private employers often do not require. After privatizing, local school boards lose control over the individuals working in schools and have little ability to provide input on job performance.
- Privatizers often use an argument of cost-savings as a means of winning contracts. The amount is often misleading because they intentionally underestimate first year operating costs. Ultimately, they reduce hours, health care coverage, or just cut jobs. All these steps lead to increase in local unemployment and less money in the community overall.
14. Are you in favor of contracting out custodial, cafeteria, and maintenance services rather than have those services provided by Board of Education employees?
______ Support _X___ Oppose
A. What are the top three things you would like to accomplish in the next four years if you are elected to the Board of County Commissioners?
1. Have the BOCC acknowledge its role as a co-owner of the school system by fully funding BOE budget requests, developing a real capital improvement plan for school facilities, and publicly demonstrating that our schools and educators are valued.
2. Implement a plan to bring professional firefighters and EMS personnel into county employment as part of a professional/volunteer hybrid system.
3. Identify the major problems the county will likely face in the next decades and begin to plan and implement long term solutions. Do not wait for the crisis to occur before acting. Make a proactive plan for the future.
B. What is your view of the current local tax structure? What, if any, changes would you advocate?
In spite of the county having a long list of legitimate needs that require funding, the current BOCC’s kneejerk reaction to increased tax revenue is to lower taxes. However, the resulting yearly tax savings for the average taxpayer is minimal. The recent election year tax cut will save the average household less than 22 cents a day. Wisely investing the tax dollars we have is more important than across the board tax cuts. Tax relief, when offered, should be targeted to aid low-income taxpayers in the form of rebates or credits.