LAWMAKERS PROPOSE $2.2B FOR SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: Democratic leaders of Maryland’s General Assembly announced plans Wednesday to spend billions of dollars more on public school construction — at the same time they plan to significantly boost spending inside classrooms, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun. “This is a very big deal, honestly and truly, I would tell you if it wasn’t,” said Senate President Mike Miller, who was flanked by Democratic leaders at a now-closed elementary school in Prince George’s County.
- The $2.2 billion plan would jolt progress on backlogged projects statewide, providing more than five years’ worth of funding in one shot, Erin Cox of the Post is reporting.
- The proposal, announced in a 66-year-old Prince George’s County elementary school that is closed to students because of structural problems, represents the latest multi-billion proposal focused on improving public school education in the state. A separate, $4 billion plan to fund an overhaul of the state education system is being billed as game-changing and unique in the country, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.
- Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes that House Appropriations Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) said that under the scheme, the school construction push would not affect the state’s debt ceiling or draw money away from other projects in the capital budget.
- Democrats who control the General Assembly discussed the proposal in what amounted to a preview of the leading role education funding will play in the upcoming legislative session. The school construction measure is in addition to a separate plan they support to phase in billions of dollars more for needs inside the classroom, Brian Witte of the AP reports.
SLOW START TO COMMUNITY COLLEGE OFFER: Many Maryland students do not want to accept the state’s offer of tuition-free community college if it means they are required to live in the state after graduation or risk having their award turn into a loan, education officials told state lawmakers Tuesday, Lisa Nevans Locke reports in Maryland Matters.
STATE AUDIT FINDS INEFFICIENCY IN ARUNDEL SCHOOL BUS SERVICES: A recent performance audit of Anne Arundel County Public Schools found the school system is not managing its transportation services efficiently, Lilly Price is reporting in the Annapolis Capital. Parents in the county have expressed frustration over school busing issues, such as frequent problems with changed routes, crowded buses and a lack of drivers. The Maryland Office of Legislative Audits cited the absence of formal targets and goals for revising bus routes as one of the problems.
WA CO LAWMAKERS HEAR RX POT TESTIMONY: Alexis Fitzpatrick of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports that Carey Tilghman teared up talking about her daughter to several area lawmakers Wednesday night. Tilghman said that after her 4-year-old daughter Raina has a seizure, it can take up to a month for the girl to fully recover using certain rescue medicines. But not medical cannabis. “It doesn’t end every seizure, but the side effects aren’t as profound,” she said. The comments came during a forum wrapping up a daylong listening session for members of Washington County’s delegation to the Maryland General Assembly prior to the Jan. 8 start of the legislature’s 90-day session in Annapolis.
STATE ALLOTS W. VA. TIME ON MARC SERVICE: West Virginia officials scrambling to cobble together the funds needed to keep MARC train service running to the state’s Eastern Panhandle have been granted some extra time by the state of Maryland. But Hogan administration officials are signaling their patience won’t last forever, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.
PHYSICIAN TAKES OVER SCANDAL SCARRED UMMS: Physician Mohan Suntha will lead the University of Maryland Medical System, which this year saw an exodus of top leaders and an overhaul of its board after a self-dealing scandal that included purchase of hundreds of children’s books self-published by then-Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, writes Rachel Chason of the Post.
- The Sun’s Luke Broadwater writes that Suntha — known for helping St. Joseph Medical Center recover after its star cardiologist was accused of placing unnecessary stents in patients and for facing the media after one of the system’s Baltimore hospitals was condemned for “patient dumping” — will now try to right the overall organization after the board of directors scandal that resulted in the resignation of Baltimore’s mayor.
- As head of UMMS, he will oversee the system’s 13 Maryland hospitals, as well as the 28,000 employees and 4,000 affiliated physicians working at more than 150 care sites across Maryland. In a statement, he said he is “humbled and honored” by the opportunity, Morgan Eichensehr of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.
WRESTLING TOWARD 5G: Modern technology is facing an old problem as local governments wrestle with where to allow cell phone carriers to place new antennas that promise improved service and the next generation of smart technology, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. Baltimore’s streets are dotted with more than 600 “small cell wireless facilities” on streetlights and utility poles, making the city one of the first areas in Maryland to welcome the new technology. The sometimes box-like equipment delivers cellular signals faster than traditional cell phone towers, paving the way for 5G service.
OPINION: HOGAN ON WRONG SIDE OF THE FLAG ISSUE: The editorial board for the Post takes Gov. Larry Hogan to task for jumping into the ‘thin blue line’ flag issue in Montgomery County. The board opines that: Hogan chimed in that removing the flag was “outrageous and unconscionable.” Perhaps the governor was unaware that some of the white supremacists who wreaked havoc in Charlottesville in 2017, spouting racist bile and chanting “Jews will not replace us,” carried the thin-blue-line flag. The board continues: it’s against federal law to remake the American flag with “any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.” Displaying a flag that is not only illegal but also a lightning rod for controversy is not a good look for a police station.
HO CO REDISTRICING MOTION FAILS: A motion to continue the ongoing Howard County school redistricting process by starting from Superintendent Michael Martirano’s recommended proposal failed at a Board of Education work session Tuesday night, Jess Nocera reports for the Howard County Times. School board member Sabina Taj made a motion early Tuesday night to go back to Martirano’s proposal. During the first work session Oct. 17, the school board reached a consensus without needing to vote to use current boundary lines as a starting point when making redistricting decisions.
OPINION: ‘SOCIOECONOMIC INTEGRATION’ NONSENSE: Del. Trent Kittleman, R-9A Howard County, the grandmother of six students in Howard County public schools, questions Superintendent Michael Martirano plan to move 7,400 students to relieve overcrowding but also to achieve “socioeconomic integration.” Kittleman says the moves will harm many children, in an opinion piece in MarylandReporter.com
MORE ON HOWARD REDISTRICTING: In a column running in The Business Monthly, Len Lazarick writes that children from lower-income families are concentrated in Columbia’s older neighborhoods and the Route 1 corridor because that’s where their parents can afford to live. Achieving equity in education for these students requires the additional resources laid out by the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. Simply moving them to higher performing schools, as the superintendent has proposed, is not enough.
BOWIE STATE PREZ CHASTISES CONGRESS OVER HBCU FUNDS: The president of Bowie State University, joined by Maryland’s U.S. senators, called it “unfathomable” that the Senate is holding up millions of dollars in funding for historically black colleges and universities in Maryland and around the nation, Jeff Barker of the Sun is reporting
NEW ANNAPOLIS LOBBYIST FOR FREDERICK: Frederick County will have a new chief lobbyist in Annapolis next General Assembly session – and it’s shaking up multiple levels of government, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports. Roger Wilson, who has been the county’s director of government affairs and public policy for the last five years, will step down in January. County Executive Jan Gardner (D) announced on Wednesday that he will be replaced by Joy Schaefer, who is currently vice president of the Frederick County Board of Education.
ELECTION SURPRISES IN MD: As a dramatic election night unfolded Tuesday in Virginia, municipalities in the nearby Maryland suburbs held elections that came with their own share of surprises. In Rockville, officials saw record turnout in the state’s first vote-by-mail election. In Bowie, residents elected the city’s first black mayor, while in Greenbelt, a 27-year-old with a history of civic activism seemed poised to take over leadership from an incumbent mayor and veteran City Council member, Rebecca Tan and Rachel Chason report in the Post.
MO CO BANS NATURAL HAIR BIAS: Deep-blue Montgomery County has become the first jurisdiction in the Washington region to ban discrimination against natural hairstyles, following similar legislation in California and New York, Rebecca Tan of the Post reports.
- The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair Act amends the county’s existing anti-discrimination laws to expand the definition of race, adding hair texture and styling to a list of protected traits, Kate Masters of Bethesda Beat reports. The bill bans discrimination against braids, locks, Afros, curls, twists and any other hairstyles worn by people of color to preserve the natural texture of their hair.