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Governor Expected to Push Vouchers in New Legislative Session
January 19, 2017
By Jim Campbell

Legislators from across Maryland came together in Annapolis on January 11 for the annual convening of the Maryland General Assembly. Governor Larry Hogan is expected to focus his attention during the legislative session on the continuation of the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program that provide vouchers to families to send their children to private schools. The original BOOST initiative passed last year with a $5 million commitment. Hogan has talked about increasing that number to $10 million this year.

The governor will also be trying to implement his plan to delay the start of schools until after Labor Day and have air conditioning installed in all schools that are currently without it. The cost to Baltimore City alone will be $30 million.

Catherine Pugh, mayor of Baltimore, wants more control over city schools and will push for more influence over appointing members to the school board. The appointment authority is now shared jointly between the mayor and governor.

State Senator Bill Ferguson, SOE’s director of reform initiatives, stated, “I don’t expect any Earth-shattering initiatives to happen this year because of the work of the Kirwan Commission on Excellence and Innovation in Schools.”  

The commission’s charge is to determine how much money state and local governments should spend on public education to achieve equity. Since the recommendations could have significant budget implications, the legislature is expected to put off any new spending proposals until the report is complete. The commission, which includes David Steiner, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, will make a final recommendation next December. 

A consultant, hired by the Maryland State Department of Education, recommended that the state increase school aid by $2.6 billion. Other education-related issues that may come up in session include universal pre-K for all 4-year-olds, banning suspensions for pre-K students and expansion of the charter school law. 

A former Teach For America corps member and SOE alumnus, Ferguson will introduce his plan for establishing the Education Development Collaborative (EDCo). A public school innovation center, EDCo will promote school redesign and voluntary socioeconomic integration efforts across the state. 

“For our kids to be successful in a 21st-century globalized workforce, we need to be intentional about fostering creative approaches to school design and learning opportunities. EDCo will provide that platform,” Ferguson said.

The bill passed the General Assembly last year but was vetoed by Governor Hogan.