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A representative for Carroll’s teachers union expressed frustration at low turnout from public officials at an annual legislative breakfast held Saturday, Jan. 4.

The breakfast was hosted by educators from the Carroll County Education Association (CCEA) and Carroll Association of School Employees (CASE), bargaining units made up of employees of Carroll County Public Schools. Much of the discussion focused on the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, and representatives on both sides of the aisle in the Maryland General Assembly have said the recommendations will be the biggest discussion in this year’s session, which opens Wednesday.

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Of 11 legislators who represent any part of Carroll County, only Del. Trent Kittleman, R-District 9A, attended, according to CCEA President Teresa McCulloh. Her district includes a small portion of southern Carroll.

McCulloh said she appreciated those legislators who RSVP’d in a timely manner, but was frustrated to have no representatives from District 5. The majority of Carroll’s geographic area and population falls inside that district.

Earlier in December, the associations hosted an event called “Walk a Day in My Shoes,” where Board of Education members, Superintendent Steve Lockard, chiefs of staff for CCPS, and the five members of the Board of County Commissioners were invited to schedule a day to visit a teacher’s classroom. McCulloh said in an interview that those who volunteered to participate were those who had backgrounds in Carroll classrooms already.

She said it was frustrating not to see more participation from elected officials in two substantial events leading up to the legislative session.

“So often we share testimonials and make asks for additional funding. This was a perfect opportunity for our funding authorities to experience first-hand some of our needs,” McCulloh said via email in a prepared statement.

In her statement, she said the visits were designed to show the reasons why Carroll schools rank high in standardized testing and Maryland Report Card ratings, as well as why their funding requests focus on more hires in special education, counseling and academic and behavioral specialist positions, as well as support for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the legislation born out of the Kirwan recommendations.

Kirwan came up as a topic at the Chamber of Commerce’s legislative breakfast held Jan. 3, the day before the education association breakfast, and was the topic of money-related trepidation. Kittleman; Del. Susan Krebs, R-5; Sen. Justin Ready, R-5; Del. April Rose, R-5; and Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-5, attended that breakfast. All of the District 5 representatives were also present at a Carroll County Farm Bureau legislative dinner held Monday.

Krebs said it was individual circumstance that affected the representatives’ ability to attend.

“We go to everything, and we want to go to everything, and that’s just not a good time,” she said, it being the weekend before the session.

She said she responded right away after receiving the invitation. In future years, she said she hopes the educators’ associations will reach out to the representatives about a date that more of them can attend.

This session, she will look forward to speaking with them if they travel to Annapolis during the session, as they usually do, she said. Krebs, who is a former Carroll County Board of Education member, said the voice of teachers is important and raises issues that they might not have heard about before.

She said this year she has heard concerns from teachers about disciplinary issues and the difficulty of teaching students who are not coming to school prepared or intending to learn.

Rose also said it was a scheduling difficulty that kept her from the breakfast, citing a family obligation.

She said that members of the educators union often make a trip to Annapolis during the session, and said “my door is always open.”

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She and Shoemaker serve on the House’s Ways and Means Committee’s Education Subcommittee and have been following the Kirwan Commission’s progress for about three years. She was on her way to a Kirwan-related briefing Tuesday afternoon, the day before the session begins. Though she would prefer to see the Kirwan recommendations come through the legislature in smaller chunks and with a lower price tag, she said, right now the commission’s findings are just a report and legislation is coming soon.

Friday’s Chamber of Commerce breakfast almost entirely concerned the cost of the Kirwan recommendations, with many of the Republican legislators expressing skepticism that the reforms could be funded without a tax hike.

The Kirwan recommendations would require the state government to spend $2.8 billion more on schools and local governments to spend a combined $1.2 billion more, by 2030. A proposed formula would not require Carroll County to increase funding at the county level, while other areas like Baltimore City will need to increase spending on schools by $330 million to make muster.

Speaking to The Baltimore Sun in an interview published Jan. 5, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and incoming Senate President Bill Ferguson said the General Assembly is not headed in the direction of across-the-board increases to state sales, property or income taxes for Marylanders.

Advocates calling for the state legislature to fully fund Kirwan have pointed to economic growth, legalizing marijuana and sports betting, and broader taxation on online purchases from out of state.

Republicans are few in Maryland’s General Assembly, which is majority blue and currently has the numbers to overturn a veto from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan if Democrats vote together.

At their breakfast, CCEA and CASE outlined as major Kirwan-related priorities: hire more educators and increase their pay; equity for all students and schools; recruit and retain diverse educators and leaders; and accountability and improved educator and stakeholder voice.

McCulloh said presidents of the local chapter are part of a Maryland State Educators Association legislative committee who work to identify their priorities each year.

They also expressed support for the legislation known as the “Built to Learn Act,” McCulloh said. The bill proposes to pour more funds into school construction and renovation. Specifically, Carroll’s associations support prioritizing funding for career and technical education and pre-kindergarten facilities.

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More information about MSEA’s legislative priorities is available at www.marylandeducators.org.

Tracking for bills is available at the Maryland General Assembly website, mgaleg.maryland.gov.

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