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Gov. Hogan's bill to increase tech schools in Maryland killed in Senate committee

Gov. Larry Hogan’s legislation to expand the number of schools participating in the state’s technology education program died late Tuesday in a Senate committee.

Gov. Larry Hogan’s legislation to expand the number of schools participating in the state’s technology education program died late Tuesday in a Senate committee — sparking harsh criticism from the governor’s office.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat, said the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, which he chairs, voted down the bill, which would have allowed more schools to participate in the state’s P-TECH program.

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Pinsky, who has been battling the Republican governor on school issues — including whether to allow local districts to begin the school year before Labor Day — said the decision wasn’t personal. He said the P-Tech program needed to be studied more before it should be expanded.

The committee voted 6-4 along party lines to kill the bill.

“Anecdotally, the reports are pretty good” of P-TECH’s success, Pinsky said. “We’re not against it. It’s just we haven’t gotten the data back about whether it’s working on not.”

Maryland’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School program, known as P-TECH, enables students to graduate with a high school diploma and — at no cost — a two-year associate’s degree in a science, technology, engineering or math field in six years or less. Each of the state’s eight P-TECH schools features a partnership among a local high school, a college and a private sector sponsor.’

Dunbar High School and Carver Vocational-Technical School in Baltimore were the first to become P-TECH schools for the 2016-2017 school year. Six more P-TECH schools have opened since, including New Era Academy in Baltimore and Dundalk High School in Baltimore County. Others are in Allegany, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

To expand the number of such schools, Hogan submitted legislation this year to lift caps that limit the state to issuing one planning grant per local school system. In addition, the legislation proposed lifting the cap that prevents the opening of additional schools beyond the eight already open for several more years.

The governor placed $300,000 in his fiscal year 2020 budget to fund planning grants for three additional P-TECH schools.

“Why put a limit on it? … I’d love to do 100 additional schools. I’d like to have one in every single jurisdiction,” Hogan said at a December press conference announcing the legislation.

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, criticized the committee’s vote and noted that Pinsky had supported previous efforts to expand the P-TECH program.

Chasse said students in a similar program in New York graduate at higher-than-average rates.

“It’s unfathomable that Senator Pinsky would try to take opportunities away from disadvantaged kids, and it’s unconscionable to prevent a bill that will help Maryland students from coming to the floor for a vote,” Chasse said. “Students, parents and educators have testified about how effective the P-TECH program has been, and partisanship should never get in the way of our kids’ education."

Pinsky has been battling with the Hogan administration over the governor’s order that public schools may not start until after Labor Day — with Pinsky involved in a heated exchange with Republicans over comments he made that Hogan was physically blocking students from entering schools. The Senate passed legislation Pinsky sponsored to override that order. But Pinsky said the committee’s vote Tuesday was unrelated to that dispute.

“We said, ‘Look, come back in a year or two,’” Pinsky said. “Let’s get some more data. It was not a personal attack on the administration.”

Bills in the House of Delegates authorizing expansion of P-TECH schools are still alive.

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