Each year, G.S. Proctor & Associates compiles for our clients a detailed report analyzing key developments in the legislative process affecting the issues and industries that matter most in the state of Maryland.
In the coming days, we’ll share the details of the report in a series of posts focused on the various areas of interest. For those interested in seeing the complete report now, you can download a PDF here.
This Legislative Session had a variety of bills focusing on primary and secondary education: from virtual schooling to school construction updates, from discipline on school properties to electrification of school bus fleets and boards of education realignments.
Maryland’s education system, rightfully so, has been a major topic of discussion for the past three sessions; starting with the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (HB1 – 2020), which was the Legislature’s attempt at fixing myriad systemic and generational issues that lawmakers claimed have been unaddressed for way too long; to include more robust early childhood education, improving teacher and faculty compensation and investing additional resources to serve at-risk students.
A multi-year effort to overhaul Maryland’s education system and school construction processes and timelines was further supplemented with bills that affected the State’s share of funding for needed changes to school buildings, via HB1290. The bill clarifies state participation by among other measures, providing an additional 10% in state-directed funding to local school systems for needed renovations for some localities with communities with lower economic thresholds.
HB1450 delayed some key dates for deliverables related to the Blueprint while providing an additional $800 million in funding for school systems to implement needed improvements.
Other education-related bills include:
Establishes a workgroup on the membership and recommends best practices in compensation, operations, and other areas. The board will start to transition to an all-elected board in 2024, at which point board members will vote for a board chair and vice chair. And, it initiates the workgroup that would evaluate and make recommendations before an all-elected board comes into effect.
PUBLIC SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION
HB1290 Education – Public School Construction – Funding and Administration (McIntosh) – Enacted
HB1290 represents the hard work of the Maryland General Assembly’s Workgroup on the Assessment and Funding of School Facilities to ensure equitable future school construction under The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and Built to Learn Act. This bill establishes a series of policies to guide future school construction and capital projects as Maryland moves into the implementation of the landmark education legislation, The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and Built to Learn Act.
This legislation will build upon the work of the Built to Learn Act by investing in the creation of net-zero schools and giving the Interagency Commission on School Construction the responsibility to annually inspect and report schools for health and safety issues, including lead paint, asbestos hazards, and air quality (including carbon dioxide pollutants).
The bill also addresses some major concerns of local governments about the funding and state/ local share of said projects. This legislation gives school districts credit and some incentives moving forward to include the State picking up more of the share of the cost of building schools.
Schools with a high concentration of poverty (80% or more students that qualify) would get a 10% increase in State share; a 5% increase in the State share for schools that have demonstrated excellent maintenance of their buildings; a 5% increase to schools that build as net-zero buildings; and a 5% increase in State share for projects with an estimated total cost of ownership that is at least 15% of baseline levels.
(SB362) – Primary and Secondary Education – Virtual Schools – Revisions (Pinsky and four other senators) – Passed
The effects of the pandemic resulted in nationwide school closures and facilitated the demand for a transition to virtual learning. This session lawmakers considered a bill that would establish the guidelines for virtual schools offered by local school districts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and alter the requirements for local boards of education or the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).
This legislation authorizes counties to establish one virtual school per grade band, which must deliver instruction remotely and entirely or primarily online. The bill also requires the State Superintendent of Schools to report the appropriate balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning by December 31, 2022, and requires MSDE to establish regulations and standards for a virtual school.
CLIMATE – BUS ELECTRIFICATION, SCHOOL RENOVATIONS
(SB528) Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 (Pinsky) – Enacted
This bill builds a framework to help achieve a transition to clean energy; this wide-ranging climate bill ultimately sets the state of Maryland on a path to achieve carbon-neutral emissions by 2045.
The Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 would do so by requiring buildings 2500sq/ft or larger to start relying on electricity, versus carbon-emitting energy sources for space and water heating needs, creating a “green bank” that would invest state funds into private projects that reduce gas emissions and requiring the PSC to study and make recommendations on standards.
As introduced, it also mandates the State to begin efforts to electrify its school-bus fleet. The bill no longer requires the construction of net-zero school buildings, and the bill gives some financial aid to local school districts as an incentive.