News from Annapolis
Special Education Edition
Delegate Trent Kittleman - District 9A
March 9, 2021

  • Education Part VII: Save our Students
  • Legislative Update
  • Legislative Scholarships
  • Tips for Testifying
  • District 9A
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Educating our kids?
These Schools DON'T work
Most of our traditional public schools do a good job educating our children. But there are large pockets where schools are seriously failing our kids, and have been for years. Most of these schools are located in neighborhoods of lower-income families. Here's a vivid reminder of what these children are facing, day after day, year after year. Below are the headlines from just a few of the stories that have appeared in the press over the last three years:
We've talked enough about the problems. Now let's look at what each individual, each concerned parent, and each dissatisfied teacher, can do.
. . . so that our children never have to face this again!
School Choice Works
Charter Schools create EQUITY for lower-income students
The single most effective cure for getting kids out of failing schools and giving them a chance to succeed educationally is to give parents the ability to get their kids out of these failing schools and into a school that has shown the ability to educate its students.

Parents deserve school choice. In the name of EQUITY, low-income families deserve the same opportunity and right to move their children into better schools as high-income parents have!

Parents need to have a portion of the taxes we pay for education able to go with the child.

Where would they go?

Right now, there are a number of Charter Schools in Maryland, 38 of them in Baltimore City. Charter Schools are "public" schools, but with a little more flexibility. All children are able to apply to go to a charter school of their choice! Except! There is no room.

Admittance to a charter school is done by lottery. Those children not lucky enough to win the lottery go on a waitlist. Waitlists in some of the best charter run between 200-600 students.

Think about that! Here we have literally thousands of children consigned to schools that demonstrably fail to educate them, year after year. Better schools exist -- but not for them. Because the State refuses to sanction Charter Schools as a viable option.
What Needs to Happen?
Maryland has a law that allows Charter Schools to apply to operate in the State. That law is rated as the most restrictive among the 38 states that have such laws, and it has been made more onerous over time.
The best brands of Charter School providers won't even bother to apply here anymore because the likelihood of obtaining a charter is so low. So, here is the first thing we have to do:
  • Convince the Legislature to
modify our Charter Law along the lines of the D.C. law so that it encourages Charter School providers to come to Maryland rather than discourages them.
The state of Maryland enacted the BOOST (Broadening Options & Opportunities for Students Today) Scholarship Program in 2016 to give K-12 students from lower-income Maryland families an opportunity to find the best educational fit for their needs by providing scholarships for their children to attend a nonpublic school. This puts more options within reach for Maryland families and children, particularly those who are most in need.
What Needs to Happen?
Every year, Governor Hogan includes $10million in the Budget for BOOST Scholarships, and every year, the Appropriations Committee cuts it in half. Two years ago, the Chair of the Appropriations Committee tried to insert a provision that would have totally killed the program. Fortunately, that provision was defeated.

But there is always the threat that this legislature will kill BOOST and any program designed to help educate our kids that is not completely under the control of the Public School System. Here's what needs to happen:

  • Convince the Legislature to fully fund BOOST, and gather data from the program, parents, and the kids who attend to show the Legisature the value BOOST provides.
Educating our kids:
What Can WE Do?
First, Define the Goal
  • To get the State Legislature to pass a law that encourages Charter School providers to come to Maryland
...............* The bill should include a goal of attracting a certain number of
................. new charter schools within a certain number of years,
  • To get the State Legislature to increase funds for BOOST Opportunity Scholarships in the annual budget
...............*Dramatically increase the funding for BOOST from the $10
................ million in the Governor's Budget to at least $50 million
................ within two years
Second, identify the legislators that represent YOU.
Believe it or not, your voice does matter in this process, and the only way to make a difference is by using it to advocate for the issues you care about. There are so many ways you can communicate with your legislators, there's something for everyone.

Below are some of the most common way to get your message heard by legislators
Third, Take Action
Email is far and away the easiest and best way to communicate with your legislators.
So few people take the time to sit down, write a letter, put it in an envelop, find a stamp and put it in a mailbox, that Legislators always pay them a good deal of attention.

Postcards are a nice compromise. They are more personal than an email, yet much easier to prepare and send. Your message need not be longer than what fits on a postcard.

Letters to the editor can be very effective. If you have a local paper, you can generally count on your letter being printed. But it doesn't hurt to send it to the Baltimore Sun or the Washington Post, where your words will get maximum exposure.

A personal story that shows why you want the legislator to support (or oppose) a bill will have a greater impact than a litany of facts -- for better or worse.
The most important thing to remember in developing and delivering a message for your elected official is that you have something of value to contribute.

Whether you plan to talk or write you will need "Talking Points." These talking points should encapsulate the most significant messages you want the legislators to hear.

This Newsletter will be developing and publishing a series of Talking Points that you may find helpful.

Social Media can be extremely valuable in finding and recruiting new members. These forums can bring together large numbers of like-minded people and often lead to the creation of a formal "Group" where people can share ideas. This is a good way to get more people involved and to expand the scope of your message.

A traditional way to influence legislators is by bringing a group of supporters to Annapolis during session, and line up along the legislators' path to the Statehouse with signs or handouts.

Sometimes a legislator will oppose an idea because he or she has knowledge of only one side of the issue. If you are aware of a charter school, or of a private school where a number of BOOST scholarship children attend, ask permission to bring a legislator to tour the facility. Often, the Administrator of the school will be able to arrange both a tour and an opportunity to talk with parents.
  1. The most effective time to contact ('lobby') your legislator is when a specific bill has been proposed and its hearing date has been set. This allows you to laser focus on a specific action we want them to take: OPPOSE THIS BILL or SUPPORT THIS BILL. But only the legislators who serve on the committee hearing the bill will have a vote.
  2. If the bill has already been heard in committee, it must be passed by the entire House (and Senate). This is a good time to contact your personal legislators and any other legislators you may know.
  3. Because we are working for a broader goal -- SUPPORT SCHOOL CHOICE -- we can contact legislators at any time during the year. This can be particularly effective if your message accompanies a particular event. For example, if a story appears in the Post touting the success of the D.C. charter schools, this would be a great time to contact your legislators and send them a copy of the article.
  4. Finally, keep an eye out for organized efforts to PROMOTE SCHOOL CHOICE that need your voice.
HB 894 will subject Community Colleges to union organization
That's not a rhetorical question.

Unions were created by law in order to protect workers from being unfairly treated by their employers.

The picture to the left recognizes Howard Community College as being ' "Best Place to Work for" in 2019 -- and for the 11 consecutive previous years! One of only two community colleges so honored nationwide!

Why on earth would employees of Howard Community College need an outside union to come in and insert themselves into the employer/ empoyee relationship?
HB 894 serves as a 22-page "manual" on how the Teachers Union can organize employees of community colleges to form a union. It's not the employees who decide among themselves to organize; it is the work of the powerful teachers unions who come in and "sell" the idea to the employees, who are often surprised to learn that they can no longer go directly to their supervisor or manager to handle their personal needs. A union contract is meant to spell out the rules and everyone must follow them. And like the contract or not, members are expected to pay dues as soon as an agreement is reached.
Provision to silence Community College administration while union organizers lobby employees is unlawful
The most devastating provision in the bill prohibits an employer from using state funds and facilities for the purpose of influencing employees to support or oppose unionization. In other words, the Community College's President and everyone in the administration must stand mute while the union is given access to the most personal information about each employee, as well as unfettered access to the employees themselves.

This provision is not only unfair, it is unlawful. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that this provision has been pre-empted by Congress which " "struck a balance of protection, prohibition, and laissez-faire." No state The "States have no more authority than the [National Labor Relations] Board to upset the balance that Congress has struck between labor and management. ”
HB 1170:
Create Statewide Virtual Schools
House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga sponsored HB 1170, a bill that would allow local school boards or Institutes of Higher Education to establish full-time, statewide, virtual public schools. Currently, local school boards can establish a virtual school only for that county. 
“While many students do not prefer virtual learning, there are some students and families that are truly thriving under this system of learning,” Szeliga said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee.
 “The ability to reach students in a home and hospital program effectively through online learning is exceptional. The possibilities for special needs students are also phenomenal.”
The virtual public school proposed in this bill would be only online and limited to no more than 1% of the student populations of each county (and Baltimore City). The state will fund the school pursuant to a formula set out in the bill, and these schools will be exempt from certain state regulations that are less compatible with a totally virtual learning environment, such as regulations relating to attendance, curriculum, class size, instruction, staffing ratios, professional development, and textbooks.

The intention of the measure is to exempt virtual schools from certain face-to-face requirements and allow slight tailoring while complying with the state curriculum, special education, and other requirements for public schools, said Mickey Revenaugh, the co-founder of Connections Academy
It would ultimately be up to the local districts or the state to decide whether to leave in certain state requirements for virtual schools seeking approval to operate in Maryland, Szeliga said.
“This is not a charter school, it’s a public school option for virtual learning,” Szeliga emphasized.

At the hearing, a number of witnesses shared their stories of their children’s experience with virtual schools. Amy Sparks testified that her daughter had been subject to bullying in public school, and had gotten behind in reading.  Her daughter, who has ADHD, returned to grade level through Pearson Online Academy and graduated with scholarships, Sparks said

“The educational system unintentionally abandons those who do not thrive in the set format that’s provided, simply by a failure to expand varied alternatives,” Jane St. Pierre, a teacher from Louisiana, said. “We have to intentionally provide options that meet different learning styles and different needs of students.”
Kittleman Legislative Scholarship
District 9-A Residents
High school seniors, current undergraduate students at a 4-year college, a community college, or a private career school are eligible to apply for a Legislative Scholarship.
Please EMAIL your applications to Trent.Kittleman@House.State.MD.US
For questions regarding the application process, call my Annapolis office and speak with Chelsea Leigh Murphy, my Legislative Aide, at 410-841-3556.
District 9A
Why does this sort of thing happen?

Howard County is 3rd among all 24 counties in Maryland for local spending per pupil and is ranked Number 5 in per-pupil spending among the largest 100 school districts in the nation. 

So why is this Howard County family having to pay over $640 a month so that their child can have access to the County's Virtual learning?

This Howard County family lives in a verified dead spot. When schools first shut down, the school system provided similarly situated families with a "Nighthawk Hotspot," which worked wonderfully. 

This past month, the school told this family that they didn’t have enough funding to continue providing the Nighthawk Hotspot. They replaced it with the "Aircard."  

The Aircard Hotspot does not cover the area in which this family lives, and the school refuses to offer anything else to the family or even listen to the issues they are having.  

This student uses approximately 2GB a day on schoolwork, which requires the family to now pay an additional $140 dollars a month for 17 days of internet hotspot usage exclusively for her school work. This is on top of the $500 a month the family has been paying for a personal hotspot. 

What happened to the millions of dollars we pay in property taxes for the schools? We had NO school for some time last year; minimal schooling for the tail end of the 2020-2021 school year; and only moderately successful virtual learning for the last seven months.

On top of all the education our children missed over the past year, how can the Howard County Public School System justify ignoring the needs of this family?!