Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category

Budget Debate Starts in House

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — The House of Delegates today begins debate on a state budget proposal that reforms pensions for state employees, restores a large chunk of cuts to K-12 education funding and raises several fees to generate tens of millions in new revenue to help shore up a dedicated transportation fund.

The House Appropriations Committee last week approved a series of budget cuts and fee increases to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget proposal.

Lawmakers will debate a series of amendments to the budget today before giving the bill preliminary approval. A final vote on the budget is expected Friday.

The budget approved by the Appropriations Committee would increase several fees to generate more than $60 million in new revenue. The bulk –about $50 million — will come from a proposed increase to the titling fee for vehicle purchases, which would double from $50 to $100. Another $2 million to $3 million in new revenue would come from doubling the fee for vanity license plates from $25 to $50.

The money generated from those two fees will go toward the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which O’Malley is planning to tap to the tune of $100 million this session to plug budget holes.

“This is designed to provide some help and relief for transportation instead of doing some sort of gasoline tax,” said Delegate John Bohanan, a St. Mary’s Democrat and key member of the Appropriations Committee. “We’ve got to come up with some funds for transportation.”

The budget approved by the committee also increases a fee Marylanders pay to file property tax records from $20 to $40. That change is estimated to raise about $10 million, Bohanan said.

House Republicans fired back at the House spending plan Wednesday, saying the budget does little to address long-term debt and spending. The proposed fees, said House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell, amount to the government “taking money out of the private sector.”

“We don’t have a revenue problem. These are revenue mechanisms,” said O’Donnell, R-Calvert. “We have a spending problem and this budget doesn’t address our over-spending.”

House Republicans are readying amendments to present today. O’Donnell did not elaborate on specifics but said the amendments will “highlight greater opportunities to reduce spending in Maryland.”

House GOP leaders presented a proposal earlier this month that outlined $621 million in additional spending cuts on top of the nearly $1 billion in reductions O’Malley proposed in his budget.

O’Malley’s budget proposal would cut the state’s structural deficit, which is estimated between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion, by $730 million. The House budget goes a bit further and seeks to slash the structural deficit by $803 million.

That’s not enough, Republicans say, and the GOP proposal presented last month would eliminate about two-thirds of the deficit in fiscal 2012 and the rest by fiscal 2013.

“The Democrat plan is silent with regard to when the structural deficit will be completely fixed,” O’Donnell said. This budget “doesn’t solve our problem and it kicks the can down the road.”

Bohanan, the chair of the Education and Economic Development Subcommittee, said Democrats refused to cut deeper because any further reductions could “decimate” education funding. The committee voted last week to restore about $58 million of the $94 million O’Malley cut in funding for K-12.

“That’s the one priority we continue to hold and maintain,” Bohanan said.

The House gets the first shot at the budget this year. Bohanan said the Senate is “in sync” with the majority of the House plan, but the two chambers will likely have to reconcile differences on pension reform.

The House is proposing to change O’Malley’s pension reform plan by requiring state employees to pay 7 percent of their salaries instead of 5 percent into their pension plans. O’Malley’s proposal would have given state employees the option to choose between 7 percent and 5 percent contributions.

The Senate on the other hand could move toward a shift to have local governments help pay for pensions. The House last year rejected a “wholesale shift,” Bohanan said.

“The main thing is going to be pensions,” he said. “We’ll be in sync on education funding, but pension reform will be different.”

By Capital News Service’s David Saleh Rauf.

More Immigration Debate Expected Wednesday Night

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
Students from Patterson High School in Baltimore wait for lawmakers outside the Senate chamber in Annapolis before debate begins on a bill granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

Students from Patterson High School in Baltimore wait for lawmakers outside the Senate chamber in Annapolis before debate begins on a bill granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

ANNAPOLIS – After a charged three-hour morning debate, the Senate on Wednesday adopted the favorable committee report on in-state tuition for undocumented students, but will be back for more debate at 5 p.m.

The time was largely spent on debate over a committee amendment clarifying that undocumented students would be required to first attend the community college that services their high school for an associate’s degree or 60 credits. There had previously been confusion over whether undocumented students could shop around the state for a community college to attend at in-county tuition rates.

The amendment, clarifying that they could not, passed 26-20.

Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs, R-Cecil, said she has at least nine amendments lined up for the evening’s debate, but could prepare more before they assemble.

Concerns raised included the increased cost of providing state aid for community colleges, estimated at almost $800,000 in 2014 and $3.5 million in 2016, depending on how many students take advantage of the law.

Although opponents say the bill would be too expensive, supporters say the legislative analysis doesn’t take into account the benefits of a larger population of college graduates, including increased revenues from income taxes.

“How do you put a value on a college education?” asked Senate President Mike Miller.

The law requires that students attend a Maryland high school for two years, graduate from a Maryland high school, apply within fours years of graduation, and attend their local community college until they receive an associate’s degree. In order to continue receiving in-state tuition, students must then enroll in a public, four-year institution within four years of attaining an associate’s degree or 60 credits.

Students, or their parents or guardians, must show that taxes have been filed during that time. Students must also submit an affidavit testifying that they will apply for legal status within 30 days of becoming eligible.

Opponents of the bill argued that the bill was an unfunded mandate for the local governments that fund community colleges, that students would be incriminating themselves or their parents by revealing their immigration status through tax filings, and that the state would be violating federal law by enacting the legislation.

Supporters, led by Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, said that local governments determine how to fund their community colleges, that the Internal Revenue does not enforce legal status and therefore students will not be incriminating themselves, and that 10 other states have already enacted similar legislation.

Four of those states are considering repealing those laws.

Opponents also argued that the law would be unfair for legal residents and citizens, giving space and resources to undocumented students.

Testimony on the House of Delegates’ version of the bill is being heard in committee Wednesday.

– By Capital News Service’s Holly Nunn

PGCC Wins $200,000 in Health Scholarship Funds

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States has awarded Prince George’s Community College $200,000 to support low-income students in the nursing and allied health fields.

In its first year, the scholarship fund will provide $101,110 in tuition assistance and fees to 27 students in the college’s health sciences division, said Mona Rock, coordinator of public relations for PGCC. The remaining balance will be put into a trust by the Prince George’s Community College Foundation to continue the scholarship into the following year.

The 27 students receiving assistance in the first year will continue to receive the funds for a second year, Rock said, and the scholarship fund is expected to provide tuition assistance to nearly 60 students in the first two years.

Students already enrolled in one of the college’s health programs, as well as low-income professionals in the health care industry who wish to go back to school to advance their skills in the field, are eligible to apply for the awards, said Rock. Recipients will be chosen by a committee.

The Kaiser scholarships will help PGCC students prepare for positions such as emergency medical technician, registered nurse, paramedic and dental assistant — all professional programs offered through the college’s health sciences division.

“It’s a great opportunity” for the students, said Rock. “These are high-demand jobs.”

–By Maryland Newsline’s Madhu Rajaraman

Obama Lauds Maryland Team at White House

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
President Obama at the NCAA ceremony.

University of Maryland women's lacrosse player Mary Jordan shakes President Obama's hand at the White House reception honoring the team and other NCAA athletes. (Photo courtesy of the Maryland women's lacrosse team)

WASHINGTON – Jerseys, helmets, cleats and kneepads were replaced with shirts, ties, heels and dresses this week as more than 650 NCAA collegiate athletes from across the country — including a team from the University of Maryland — were welcomed to the White House by President Obama.

Students and coaches from more than 30 NCAA championship-winning teams, including the women’s lacrosse team from the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Virginia’s men’s soccer and women’s rowing teams, were honored Monday for their excellence in athletics, academics and community service.

“That term student athlete is the thing that makes me so proud to stand before you today,” Obama said. “When each of you won the titles that you won, whether it was in lacrosse or wheel chair basketball, you didn’t do it as professionals. You didn’t have multi-million dollar contracts or huge endorsement deals. You woke up early. You put in countless hours of practice for the love of the game and for the pride of your school.”

Amid the sprawling group of participants vying for the perfect picture of Obama, players from the University of Maryland’s women’s lacrosse team secured a position close to the president’s speaking podium. For a team known for their defense, protecting their turf wasn’t hard to do.

Down six points in the opening minutes of the 2010 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Championship in May, the team orchestrated a rally to defeat the five-time defending champions, Northwestern University, 13-11.

“This is really exciting. I’ve been here four years; I’ve never [gotten] the chance to come to the White House,” said Brandi Jones, mid-fielder for the Maryland team. “I would say that our favorite part was getting the chance to shake Obama’s hand. He actually said, ‘Congratulations Terps’ in our camera.”

Obama told the players that lessons learned while studying in airports and locker rooms will help them transition from student athletes to professional doctors, lawyers, nurses and teachers.

The president also spotlighted lesser-known teams, such as Texas Christian University’s all-female rifle squad.

–By Maryland Newsline’s Michelle J. Nealy

Sick Midshipmen Quarantined at Naval Academy

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

An outbreak of suspected H1N1 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis has led officials to quarantine infected students in an isolated area of the Bancroft Hall dorm. The first case of H1N1 was confirmed on Sept. 10, and since then, seven total cases have been confirmed, according to a statement from Deborah Goode, director of media relations at the Academy.

Since the outbreak began, the number of students with influenza-like illness quarantined in Bancroft Hall has been as high as 75, but now is decreasing, and as of Tuesday, 30 students remained isolated, Goode said.

In addition to educating midshipmen on flu prevention and good hygiene, Academy officials are asking midshipmen every morning if they’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, hand sanitizer is being made available at locations throughout the campus and common areas such as bathrooms and locker rooms are being cleaned more frequently in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, the statement said.

Midshipmen in isolation are receiving “continuous monitoring by staff and medical personnel,” as well as meals, fluids, and laundry and bed linen services, the statement said.

In a letter addressed to family and friends of midshipmen, Commandant of Midshipmen Capt. Matthew Klunder said the Academy is also in the process of providing e-mail access and DVD players to isolated midshipmen.

“I am most proud of them as they deal with this unfortunate situation, but we are all pitching in to make their stay as comfortable and pain free as possible,” the letter reads.

All midshipmen have now been vaccinated for seasonal influenza, and when the H1N1 vaccine is ready, the Academy will implement a plan to vaccinate midshipmen and military staff, the statement said.

- By Capital News Service’s Megan E. Gustafson.

Slots Developer Sees Happy Returns

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

ANNAPOLIS – The developer who wants to put slots at Arundel Mills Mall has a rosier outlook than most when it comes to the state’s revenue generating prospects from the controversial machines.

“The revenue that the state hoped to receive is going to be exceeded,” said David Cordish on WYPR’s “Midday with Dan Rodricks” radio show Thursday.

His company, Cordish Cos., intends to build a massive entertainment and gambling facility next to the shopping mall off of Route 100 in Anne Arundel County.

The state received only four complete bids for fewer than half of the 15,000 machines allowed under a referendum Maryland voters passed in November. Even if all 6,550 machines are approved, the state stands to lose about half of the $600 million it promised slots would generate for education.

It might take an extra year for the state to reach its revenue estimates, but it will happen, Cordish said.

Cordish expects other developers, all of whom have submitted bids for fewer than the maximum number allowed for each site, to increase their requests over time.

Cordish has already requested the maximum number of slots for the Anne Arundel County license, 4,750. A state commission isn’t expected to decide on any of the proposals for several months.

One way Cordish doesn’t want to increase slots earnings — putting machines 15 minutes away from Arundel Mills, at BWI-Marshall Airport.

“It would clearly be inappropriate at the airport,” Cordish said. “It would not be a good idea.”

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, said Tuesday that putting slot machines at Maryland’s biggest airport would be a great way to capture out-of-state money and wouldn’t interfere with the Arundel Mills proposal. Delegate Eric Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, has introduced a bill to put slots at the airport, but it’s not expected to pass the House.

Cordish also said his gambling facility will benefit the surrounding neighborhood by increasing the level of security and adding additional free parking spaces which could be used by mall shoppers.

And despite the state throwing out a bid to put slots at Laurel Park race track for failing to include the licensing fee, Cordish believes his facility will help Maryland’s racing industry more than the Laurel Park bid could have.

“We will do more for racing by having it at Arundel Mills than if we are actually connected to a race track,” he said. “We will maximize revenues for the state.”

Of the slots proceeds, 9.5 percent is designated for horse racing interests.

By Capital News Service’s Dylan Waugh.

O’Malley Holds Town Hall on Education

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

ANNAPOLIS – They came to Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School Wednesday to ask him the tough questions, but before they could confront the guest of honor, they had to file past career fair-style booths, listen to live jazz and do him a favor.

“Turn to your neighbor and tell them we have the best public school system in America,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said, before taking questions from the audience. “Turn to your other neighbor and tell them we have the best public school system in the United States of America.”

That was nearly an hour into the show.

Hundreds of people filed into the school auditorium for the 6:30 p.m. kickoff of O’Malley’s Town Hall on Education and the Economy in Upper Marlboro, the second stop on his tour that will travel across the state.

As the audience strolled in sporting suits and designer bags, the Henry A. Wise Jazz ensemble, seated in front of a large projection screen decorated with the state seal and the name of the event, played popular tunes on stage.

Kim Seidel, principal of Greenbelt Elementary School, bypassed the sign-up sheet near the entrance where people registered to ask the governor a question because she was there to listen to what the governor had to say.

But in the nearly 45 minutes before he took the floor, she was there for the jazz.

“I think it’s great,” Seidel said of the ensemble. “It’s an opportunity for the kids to have a large audience to perform for.”

The entertainment didn’t stop there.

After the color guard led a processional down the aisle and a student saxophonist played the “Star Spangled Banner” and the Teacher of the Year was introduced and the student crew who was responsible for the lighting and sound were thanked, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown took the floor.

It was 7:04p.m.

He introduced the “O’Malley-Brown team” — heads of state departments from education to transportation to health and mental hygiene. They were seated at a long, banquet-style table in front of the jazz ensemble.

Brown then thanked the crowd for the academic gains made by the students of Prince George’s County schools, and he thanked the administration for its efforts to improve public safety.

“But I don’t want to steal the show. I want you to help me bring to the podium my friend, our governor, Martin O’Malley,” he said, as the crowd applauded.

“I have been in Washington, D.C., all day and I can’t tell you how good it feels to come to gorgeous Prince George’s County,” O’Malley said, also to a round of applause.

Before taking questions, O’Malley rallied the audience with a call for action.

“In the course of this week, I want you to tell five people — at work, at home , at church, at the barbershop or beauty parlor — tell five people that Education Week Magazine named Maryland as having the best public school system in the United States of America,” he said, again to a round of applause.

O’Malley took the first question at 7:28p.m.

-By Capital News Service’s Erika Woodward

Prince George’s Schools Superintendent Resigns

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

The Prince George’s County Board of Education accepted the resignation of Superintendent John E. Deasy Tuesday.

Deasy, who was hired in 2006, will become deputy director of the education division at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Deputy Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. was chosen by the board to serve as interim superintendent beginning Feb. 1, after Deasy leaves. The board has not yet settled on an approach to finding a replacement for Deasy but has begun that process, said John White, Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesman.

“We will certainly want to hire someone who is familiar with the culture of this particular environment, and that doesn’t mean they have to come from Prince George’s County, but they certainly need to be aware of the demographics of Prince George’s County,” said Judith James, executive director of the Board of Education.

Deasy’s doctoral degree from the University of Louisville was under scrutiny this month due to the small number of credits that he completed at that institution. Although the university’s doctoral students usually complete 18 credit hours in full-time residency, Deasy completed only nine credit hours there.

Capital News Service also reported last week that Deasy’s resume included two anomalies. He listed a faculty position at Loyola Marymount University, Calif., but that institution’s human resources department could not find any records to show he held that position. There also were questions about the date on which Deasy received a master’s degree from Providence College.

“We’re not, and have not, allowed any of that to affect our decision making,” said James, referring to the investigation. “Dr. Deasy has been very successful in his efforts here, and it has proven itself in how well our students are achieving.”

–By Capital News Service’s Megan A. Conlan

School Transportation Costs Rise

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

As we all know, it’s getting more and more expensive to get from A to B. And the same holds true for our local school buses.

According to report recently released by the environmental group 1000 Friends of Maryland, buses are driving longer distances and paying more for gas and the state’s school systems are really starting to feel the pinch.

Districts are coming up with different ways to cope with the rising transportation expense, but maybe you can help, too.

What suggestions do you have to help local schools keep costs down?

–From Maryland Newsline’s Jasmine Jernberg