COMMON CORE: Nearly all the superintendents of Maryland school districts have signed a statement that criticizes federal and state education officials for forcing them to implement several major reforms, including the Common Core State Standards, on what they say is an unrealistic timetable writes Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post. The document, approved by 22 of Maryland’s 24 superintendents, asks for more time and resources to put the reforms in place, including the use of new Common Core tests expected in the 2014-2015 school year. The statement, which you can read here, represents the first time that such a high percentage of schools chiefs in Maryland have come together to publicly call out education officials over school reform.
- STOPPING THE CORE: A flurry of bills trying to slow down or stop the implementation of the new Common Core educational curriculum in Maryland are about to hit the legislative dockets, according to Sen. Edward Reilly, a Republican on the education committee that oversees it. Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com writes that, on Thursday, Reilly and four other Republican senators introduced two bills related to testing and teacher evaluation based on testing.
- DEFENDING THE CORE:Frustrated parents. Overwhelmed teachers. Students not doing as well as they once were. Other students having it too easy. Members of the Anne Arundel County legislative delegation have been bombarded with such Common Core complaints, Allison Bourg reports in the Annapolis Capital. They held a public hearing Tuesday in Annapolis to allow education leaders to explain the program. And while those leaders defended Common Core, they said implementation has been bumpy.
- REBRANDING THE CORE: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer used an executive order to strip the name “Common Core” from the state’s new math and reading standards for public schools. In the Hawkeye State, the same standards are now called “The Iowa Core.” And in Florida, lawmakers want to delete “Common Core” from official documents and replace it with the cheerier-sounding “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards,” Lindsey Layton reports in the Post. In the face of growing opposition to the Common Core State Standards — a set of K-12 educational guidelines adopted by most of the country — officials in a handful of states are worried that the brand is already tainted. They’re keeping the standards but slapping on fresh names they hope will have greater public appeal.
EMERGENCY HEALTH BILL SIGNED: Gov. Martin O’Malley signed his first piece of legislation of the year on Thursday morning, allowing the state to offer temporary, retroactive health insurance to residents who tried to get coverage through the state’s new online insurance marketplace and failed because of ongoing problems with the Web site, Jenna Johnson of the Post reports.
- The Senate had voted 34-7 on Wednesday to give final approval to the emergency legislation, writes Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital.
PROBE TO GO TO AUDITORS: The head of the state Senate committee that is leading an inquiry into what wrong with Maryland’s health exchange is planning to turn the probe over to state auditors — who would not release a report until summer at the earliest, Erin Cox and Tim Wheeler report in the Sun. Sen. Thomas Middleton, who chairs the Finance Committee, said this week that the panel is unlikely to hold further hearings on the matter this legislative session.
WAGE HIKE: Alex Jackson of the Annapolis Capital is reporting that a House of Delegates committee will be the first to hear from supporters and opponents of a proposal by the O’Malley administration to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016. The House Economic Matters Committee is scheduled to hear House Bill 295 on Feb. 11 at 1 p.m. Two days later on Feb. 13 at 1 p.m., the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to hear its companion bill, Senate Bill 331.
- In an op-ed for the Annapolis Capital on the proposed hike in the minimum wage, Perry Weed of the Economic Club of Annapolis writes that 3.5 million American workers, the majority women, are paid at or below $7.25 an hour or $15,080 annually — less than the 2013 poverty threshold. Another 5 million earn wages just above the minimum. Adjusted for inflation, the real minimum wage is lower today than it was in 1956.
ECONOMIC ANALYSIS SOUGHT: Three senators have joined Sen. Richard Colburn in calling for detailed economic analysis of regulations proposed by state departments, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times. Colburn announced Sens. Jim Mathias, Steve Hershey and Nancy Jacobs have signed on as co-sponsors during the bill’s hearing in front of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee on Thursday.
REVERSING SLAVERY VOTE: In 1962, Maryland — then a slaveholding state — was one of four states that did vote to ratify a constitutional amendment that in effect would have enshrined slavery in the U.S. Constitution. Since the amendment never won the approval of three-fourths of the states, it could not be ratified. Now, 152 years later, the Maryland General Assembly appears poised to pass legislation to rescind that vote, Steve Lash reports in the Daily Record.
FOCUS ON WATERMEN: Craig O’Donnell writes in the Easton Star Democrat that it’s early, as General Assembly sessions go, but Del. Jay Jacobs has focused his energies on protecting the watermen working the upper Chesapeake Bay.
CLEANING VOTE ROLLS: Removing deceased individuals from voter rolls isn’t as simple as checking newspaper obituaries. When election officials suspect someone on their lists has died, they sometimes have to wait two election cycles before they can remove the person’s name. Del. Kathy Afzali says this process needs some streamlining. On Thursday, she presented a bill that would allow boards of elections to use U.S. Social Security Administration records to purge names from their records more quickly.
POW/MIA FLAGS: With amendments in hand, Lower Shore Sen. Jim Mathias sat down with a committee on Thursday to talk about why he believes flags honoring prisoners of war and missing in action soldiers should be flown at most state buildings, Jennifer Shutt reports in the Salisbury Daily Times. The addition of text saying most state buildings was new and why Mathias arrived carrying amendments.
BOND BILL FOR THEATER REPAIRS: Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail writes that Del. John Donoghue is sponsoring a $750,000 bond bill during the current session of the General Assembly to fund repairs and renovation of The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown.
ULMAN FUNDRAISING: New fundraising guidelines affecting Maryland’s gubernatorial primary election appear to make it almost impossible for Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, the running mate of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, to raise money during the legislative session, reports Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter.com.
MIZEUR UPS DEBATE ANTE: Democratic candidate for governor Heather Mizeur provided her counter-offer to a request for five debates from fellow candidate Anthony Brown. The Montgomery County delegate asked for seven, reports Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times.
GANSLER, MIZEUR SPAR: Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur, two leading Democratic candidates for governor of Maryland, harshly criticized the rollout of the state’s online health insurance exchange Thursday but sparred during a candidates forum over the wisdom of a solution one of them proposed earlier in the day, John Wagner and Jenna Johnson report in the Post.
- Gansler had proposed giving Marylanders the option of purchasing health insurance through the federal exchange, saying there is “no end in sight” to problems with the state-run Web site. The proposal was a swipe at Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, his chief rival in the Democratic primary for governor who had a leadership role in implementing the federal health-care law in Maryland.
- During the candidates forum at the Leisure World senior complex, Mizeur called for significant tightening of Maryland’s laws on long guns in the wake of the shotgun attack that took three lives at The Mall in Columbia Saturday. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, whose father died earlier in the day, did not attend, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun.
BEYER CHALLENGES MADALENO: Former Montgomery County council aide Dana Beyer announced Thursday that she will run for the state Senate against incumbent Richard Madaleno, setting up a contest between a transgender woman and the chamber’s only openly gay member, Frederick Kunkle reports in the Post.
- Maryland Juice pulls together two pieces about the Beyer’s announcement. It’s apparently caused a bit of a split at Equality Maryland, of which she used to be a board member. That group has endorsed Madaleno in the past. Former Equality Maryland board chair Lisa Polyak told the Washington Blade: “Although Dana has been a tireless advocate for transgender equality locally and nationally, she doesn’t possess the seniority or relationships that can advance priorities of LGBT citizens of Maryland.”
- Beyer cited her “track record of success on progressive issues” and said she wants to work on building jobs, improving schools, repairing infrastructure and adjusting health care policy, writes Michael Gold for the Sun.
MoCo EXECUTIVE: Montgomery County voters soon may have a new way to choose a county executive if the seat is vacated in the middle of a term, Ryan Marshall writes in the Gazette. On Tuesday, County Council Vice President George Leventhal wrote to Montgomery’s House and Senate delegation leaders, asking about a possible state constitutional amendment for a special election if an executive leaves office.
NEW CANDIDATE IN ARUNDEL EXEC RACE: George F. Johnson IV is officially entering the race for Anne Arundel county executive, Rema Rahman reports in the Annapolis Capital. Johnson, a Democrat from Pasadena, was unexpectedly introduced as a candidate at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast on Jan. 22. He will make an official announcement Saturday morning.
- Johnson has been the superintendent of the state’s Natural Resources Police for the past seven years. In 2006, he lost the county executive’s race to John Leopold. Johnson served as elected sheriff from 1994 until 2006. Before that, he was a county police officer for more than 20 years. In the Democratic primary, Johnson will face off against Joanna Conti, writes Pamela Wood for the Sun.
ANNAPOLIS ELECTION PROBLEMS: Jack Lambert of the Annapolis Capital reports that the city of Annapolis released a report detailing problems discovered during last year’s historically close election. The report will likely add to calls from the city’s Democratic and Republican parties for a public hearing on issues raised by the election. Alderman Jared Littmann, who has talked with both groups, said he would like to form an ad hoc committee for such a hearing.