News from Annapolis
2020 Session:                            Delegate Trent Kittleman - District 9A
Week Nine
Contents:
 *  $32 Billion Kirwan "Blueprint" bill passed by the House
     * The "Elect a Republican Governor Act"
     * Narrative v. Reality
     * Kirwan Expands Public School for 3-year olds
     * Finnish children don't start school until age 7
 *  School Choice - Better & Cheaper
 * A Model of Success
 *  Legislative Scholarship application 
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"Blueprint for Maryland's Future"
Passed by House of Delegates
.  Cost of Program?
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$32,000,000,000 
that's   Billions!
        Friday, March 6th.  That's the day the Majority party created a $32 BILLION dollar mandate called the BluePrint for Maryland's Future.  
        I thank Speaker Jones for allowing Republicans the time to propose and argue for each of our 14 amendments; in prior times,  a representative of the majority would often "call the question," immediately cutting off debate and stifling the minority from proposing further amendments.  
         Of course, none of our amendments were approved. Every now and then, one or two of the Democrat delegates would vote with us . . . knowing that their votes were not needed by the majority.
         The (morning) session went from 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.  at which time, we recessed in order to go do committee work.  The House reconvened at 8:00 p.m. that night.  
        The reason the session was separated into two parts is that the House Rules requires a bill to go through Second Reader, (we hear and vote on amendments) and Third Reader (we vote on the bill) on different legislative days.  Upon reconvening Friday evening, it became a second "legislative" day thus allowing the Kirwan Blueprint bill to be brought up on Third Reader and voted upon.
        The bill passed by a party-line vote of 96-41.
NO NEW TAXES ??
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        The one amendment that garnered the most Democrat support (8 Democrat votes) was  significant.  It read:
        " It is the intent of the General Assembly that, beginning July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2024: (1) the rate of any statewide tax in effect on July 1, 2020, will not be increased; and (2) no new taxes will be enacted or imposed that were not in effect on January 1, 2020."
        This amendment went down in defeat, 86-49.
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Elect a  Republican Governor Act?
       Unfortunately, the $32 Billion price tag is not the sole spending increase requested this year!  Last week's edition of the Newsletter listed over 40 pending bills with price tags between $1 and $535 million.   
        The whole legislative process is geared toward fiscal irresponsibility because we consider each bill separately,and ignore the cumulative effect of our legislation.  Although Maryland is far more fiscally sound than a majority of other states, we continue to have problems:
  • Excessive spending has made the "structural deficit" always a part of the budget discussion;
  • Excessive spending requires us to eliminate some of the mandated expenses just to make the budget balance
  • Excessive spending and fiscal irresponsibility creates large future deficits for Pensions and OPEBs 
        We should be looking for ways to cut the budget -- not create more programs and increase spending.  Even in this strong economy the President created, o ur constituents have made it very clear that they do NOT want to pay more in taxes - even for more services.
   
        We might do well to listen to them. 

         If not, we might have to look back at this "Blueprint for Maryland Act" and find out it was actually the "Elect a Republican Governor Act."
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"Schools severely underfunded!"
Facts v. Fictions

         For decades, "misleading rhetoric from leading figures in America has left us believing that the U.S. spends far less on education than we actually do.  Statements such as, "Over the past decade, states all over America have made savage cuts to education . . . Teachers are paid starvation wages," by Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, paint a very dark and dismal perspective of American education, and of America.
        As a result, nearly one-third of Americans believe we spend less than $4,000 per pupil, a dramatic underestimate.  Thanks to decades of increases, the U.S. per-pupil expenditures have nearly tripled over the past half-century, from $4,700 in 1966 to $13,847 in 2016.  
        America's per-pupil spending on K-12 education stands at an all-time high in most states.  The U.S spends more money per pupil on primary and secondary schools than any other major developed nation, and American teachers earn substantially more than their peers in the private sector.   ( https://www.manhattan-institute.org/ issues-2 020- us-public-school-spending-teachers-pay)
        Even the liberal Washington Post faults the Kirwan Commission for promoting these myths:  
        "The Kirwan Commission's central claim that Maryland has underinvested in schools is undermined by  figures showing  that in 2017, the most recent year for which national data is available, Maryland spent 22 percent more on a per-pupil basis and paid its teachers 28 percent more than the national average"
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"Teachers paid starvation wages!"
"Teachers paid starvation wages!"
       The idea that teachers are severely underpaid has become a fixture in promoting the Kirwan Blueprint
        I happen to believe that we should increase teacher salaries for the reasons set out in Kirwan.  We want teaching to be viewed as a highly professional and desirable profession, and one that attracts the best and the brightest.  
          I do not, however, agree that teachers are underpaid or that their salaries should be measured against professionals in other fields.   There are so many variables in such a comparison that any conclusion is suspect.  For instance, the Economic Policy Institute has claimed that teachers earn 21.4% less than similarly skilled and educated professionals.  However, other researchers have shown that, using the same methodology,  you would find that aerospace engineers were overpaid  by 38% and telemarketers underpaid by 26%.
        Of course, statistics can generally prove whatever you want them to.  A better way to assess teacher pay is to see whether individuals gain or lose money when switching careers into or out of teaching.  Using that measure, we find that transferring from the private sector into teaching is associated with an 8% salary increase, while leaving teaching for the private sector is associated with a 3% salary decrease.
        Let's recognize that the legislature is making a choice to increase teacher pay -- not because it is inadequate but because it is a good policy decision.
        Unfortunately,teachers will be lucky to see much change in salaries unless and until Maryland finda a way to pay for all of the programs mandated in the bill.
        Even the very liberal Baltimore Sun opines: 
        " It is, in short, the height of fiscal irresponsibility to mandate billions worth of teacher pay raises, staffing increases and related pension obligations and focus only on the near term. That myopic approach will stress even affluent jurisdictions over time - and push poorer ones to the financial brink."
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Kirwan expands public education into  Pre-S chool
"The earlier, the better"
      Another major expenditure created in Kirwan is the expansion of public education into the filed of pre-school.  
        The Kirwan bill doesn't mandate all children to be in pre-school, but does commit to paying for low-income students.  And in a rare recognition of private enterprise, the state plans to rely on both public and private pre-school providers.
        The private providers, however, must meet the state's criteria in order to qualify for the state funding that pays for the low-income pre-schoolers.  Few providers will be able to meet those criteria -- and continue to stay solvent.  This means that as the program grows, the state will provide more and more public pre-schools at taxpayer expense.  Meanwhile all of the solvent pre-school providers of today will probably go out of business, since if the school system takes all of the 3- and 4-year olds into public pre-schools, private pre-school will be left only with babies.  And because of state regulations requiring an unrealistic staff-to-baby ratio, private pre-schools cannot afford to operate.
Finnish children start school at the age of  7
                  Like the other "facts" that we take on faith is the belief that, with respect to starting school, "the earlier the better."  Seldom do we hear anyone raise this as a policy issue.  But it should be raised and discussed.
        Regardless of all other issues involving early childhood education, the overarching question is: do we really want to support t he policy of sending 3- and 4-year olds to all-day school? 
        Maybe.  But fortunately, the Kirwan Blueprint does not make attendence mandatory for 3- and 4-year olds.  But how long will it be until the legislature decides to make it mandatory.  If history is any lesson, the answer is 'not long.
        But my biggest complaint with the decision to expand public schooling into all-day pre-school is that fact that, in doing so, the Commission ignores the best practices of the top school system in the world.
        Finland was one of the four school systems used as a template for the Kirwan Commission.  However, the Commission took no notice of the fact that Finland, one of the very best schools internationally, takes a diametrically different stance on the age of the child.  In Finland:
        "The year before school starts is called pre-school, and it is free for all students but not mandatory for 6-year-olds.  Students are not expected to learn how to read in pre-school.  They are learning how to learn and how to take part in group activities."
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Faster, Better, Cheaper
        Before even considering voting for a bill that will force huge tax increases, we need to look to an alternative solution that has been proven to work -- in this country -- and that will cost the State less than it now paying for an education system that doesn't work.  
        Ask parents in Washington D.C. what they think of their system of 50% public schools and 50% charter schools. Ask them if they support the system that dramatically improved their children's education.  We already know the answer.
          It is almost incomprehensible to me that legislators in this state are so afraid of the teachers' union that they not only refuse to support  Charter Schools or the BOOST voucher program, but that they actively banned their use as an alternative to schools that are failing for the second or third time.  (see the "Protect our Schools Act.")
          I have been supporting Charter Schools and programs like BOOST for 40 years ago when the primary supporters of school choice were libertarian Republicans and progressive Democrats! The issue for all of us was a matter of fairness--of "EQUITY"--which seems to the sacred password of the progressives particularly this year.
          How can we have a school system that is fair - that provides EQUITY - when people with money can send their kids anywhere-- can find the best schools or the schools that most closely fit the needs of their children. Whereas low income families are stuck in neighborhoods with schools that don't meet the needs of any children, and without the wherewithal to get their kids into a decent school.
           The RICH have school choice; the poor do not!
           I have a hard time understanding why my colleagues who I know are smart and caring, actively resist giving low income parents the same opportunity to help their kids learn in a school that can teach them.  
          And I am particularly befuddled as to why they would rather impose a $32 billion tax burden on Marylanders when we can dramatically -- and more quickly -- improve education in Maryland for virtually increase in funding -- or taxes!
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A Model of Success
Equality, Excellence and the Battle over School Choice
       The promise of public education is excellence for all.  But, with few exceptions, that promise has not been kept for low-income children of color in America.  One of those exceptions is the Success Academy of New York, a network of charter schools in NYC founded by Eva Moskowtiz.
        "Success Academy may be controversial, but its results are indisputable. Moskowitz has created something unprecedented in American education: a way for large numbers of engaged and ambitious low-income families of color to get an education for their children that equals and even exceeds what wealthy families take for granted."
        In How The Other Half Learns, Robert Pondiscio  takes the reader through a year at one of Success's schools to show how this can be done. He explores distinctive features of the school's culture, such as no-nonsense behavioral management, a knowledge- and language-rich classroom experience, an established curriculum, and the extraordinary demands on parents to participate in their children's education. With research, interviews, and diligent firsthand observation,  How The Other Half Learns  brings new light to challenging questions about equity, education policy, and the future of schools in America.
Cl.
Delegate Kittleman Scholarship
District 9-A Residents:
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        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.

  For questions regarding the application process, call my Annapolis office and speak with Chelsea Leigh Murphy, my Legislative Aide, at 410-841-3556.
Please be sure to have your completed application postmarked 
by April 1, 2020     
Delegate Trent Kittleman
District 9A, Western Howard County and Southern Carroll County (Sykesville)
Room 202, Lowe House Office Building
6 Bladen Street,   Annapolis, MD 21401
410-841-3556  *   Trent.Kittleman@House.State.MD.US
Interim Office
3000 Kittleman Lane,  West Friendship, MD 21794
301-661-3344  *   trentkittleman@verizon.net
Administrative AideChelsea Leigh Murphy