Day 50 – Kirwan

Today, Governor Hogan announced that the 2020 Primary Election will be postponed from April 28 to June 2 due to the coronavirus outbreak.  More information on this announcement and other actions announced today are available from this press release from the Governor’s Office: https://governor.maryland.gov/2020/03/17/governor-hogan-issues-proclamation-to-postpone-april-28-primary-implement-vote-by-mail-system-to-fill-7th-congressional-district-seat/.

This afternoon, the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee presented the Capital Budget to the full Senate.  Senator Bailey is happy to report that this budget contains excellent funding for District 29, including full funding for the Third Building at the University of Maryland at Southern Maryland, a grant for the Regional Agricultural Center that will be built in St. Mary’s County, as well as funding for three legislative bond initiatives requested by Senator Bailey for Chopticon High School, Sotterley Plantation, and the Calvert Marine Museum.  The budget also includes a grant to the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance for the Innovative Center for Autonomous Systems.

Last night, the Senate held its final debate and vote on the Kirwan legislation (House Bill 1300).  Throughout the entire process, Senator Bailey worked to focus on needed improvements in classroom discipline, including by adding an amendment to the bill ensure that superintendents and other school administrators are properly handling reports of classroom disruptions.  Senator Bailey has been disturbed after hearing many accounts from Maryland parents of school systems sweeping reports of disruptive behaviors under the rug.  Discipline is and remains one of the missing pieces of improving our education system. This bill makes some strides in improving the behavioral health of students, but it does not address the problems caused right now to all students by a few who are disruptive to the classroom learning environment.

Unfortunately, this effort to ensure the concerns of parents and teachers are appropriately addressed by school administrators was removed from the bill as part of an amendment that was hurried onto the floor in order to rush the bill to be finished by the early Wednesday adjournment. This process has traded away accountability in the name of expediency.  Despite the fact that recommendations of the Kirwan Commission are already in place through previously passed legislation and funded through the next fiscal year, this legislation was forced through before it was able to receive the attention to detail that it truly deserved.  Other amendments to give teachers greater power to remove disruptive students from classrooms and requiring concrete measurements for determining if these reforms are achieving their desired outcomes were also rejected.

The Senator would have loved to have taken more time to improve these reforms for our students and teachers.  He was honored to have worked with colleagues from both parties in an effort to improve the bill.  However, these efforts were curtailed by the expedited process that was late in beginning, as the full text of the bill was not introduced until about a month into the Legislative Session. 

Senator Bailey does not believe that this is the appropriate time or that we are in a suitable economic situation to pass such a significant spending increase that will force Marylanders to pay higher taxes in this time of true uncertainty.  The Senator also could not in good conscience vote for this increased spending because he will not support the tax increases required to pay for it, which would negatively impact many of his constituents.  While the Senator appreciates the passionate advocacy on both sides of the issue, under these circumstances, he could not support this legislation as it was presented.  Senator Bailey will continue to work to ensure accountability in education and improve the classroom environment for all Maryland students and teachers.