[Baltimore Sun] Here are 5 new state bills that could affect Anne Arundel County schools

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The Anne Arundel County Board of Education reviewed five state bills Wednesday that could have an impact on the school system.

The bills, which included the establishment of a student loan repayment program for teachers and protections against book banning, were among 72 related to county schools that passed during the recently concluded Maryland General Assembly session, said Grace Wilson, the legislation and policy specialist for the school system.

There was a sharp uptick in education-related bills introduced this session, Wilson said.

“My team tracked 440 bills with an impact to public education, the board of education or Anne Arundel County Public Schools,” she said. “That’s an increase of over 140 bills from the previous session, an increase of 47%”

Last year, Wilson’s office tracked 300 bills and ultimately 39 were passed.

The bills highlighted:

House Bill 541/Senate Bill 657

This bill, sponsored by Del. Shaneka Henson, an Annapolis Democrat, would enable Anne Arundel County to allocate funds for a student loan repayment program for teachers. The goal is to attract, recruit and retain a diverse group of qualified educators reflective of the population, Wilson said.

“AACPS is required to administer the program and teachers are required to make a five year commitment too stay employed with AACPS,” she added.

House Bill 785 / Senate Bill 738

The Freedom to Read Act, sponsored by Del. Dana Jones, an Annapolis Democrat, is meant to counter the rise in book challenges in the state.

It would prohibit public libraries from removing books or complying with book ban requests based on the origin or political affiliation of the author or for ideological or religious reasons. If the state library board were to find noncompliance by a public library, the state could withhold funding from that library.

House Bill 945/Senate Bill 771

This bill, sponsored by Del. Eric Ebersole, a Baltimore and Howard county Democrat, will make alterations to certification requirements for teachers.

Currently, students are required to complete a teacher preparation program, which includes passing a nationally recognized portfolio-based assessment of teaching ability. Ebersole’s bill would repeal that requirement.

Teachers will also be required to pass a subject specific exam and meet other requirements established by the state board, Wilson said.

House Bill 1426 Education

This is a departmental bill requested by the Accountability and Implementation Board, which oversees the implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. It makes numerous changes to the landmark education reform passed in 2021, Wilson said.

In particular, the bill allows the state to award funding for the planning and development of a Judy Center or Family Support Center.

Judy Centers have opened across the state since Blueprint’s passage. Staff at these centers get to know parents in the surrounding neighborhoods and support children from birth until they begin formal schooling at age 5. The centers are located at Title I schools, which have large populations of low-income students, and are designed to help children build social and academic skills for kindergarten and beyond.

The bill creates a one-year exemption in the 2024-25 school year, during which a kindergarten readiness assessment must be administered, and the test results reported. Blueprint law requires that the exam be unbiased; an evaluation had determined this was not the case.

“The state board is currently implementing a new kindergarten readiness assessment for the upcoming school year and this bill allows a new timeline,” she said.

House Bill 1441

This bill, sponsored by Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Democrat from Howard County, will make a number of changes to the Blueprint in regard to early childhood education.

It delays the requirement for private prekindergarten providers to participate in the public-private pre-K delivery model envisioned by the Blueprint. Currently, private pre-K providers are accountable for 30% of the publicly funded pre-K slots.

Additionally, the bill allows state capital improvement program funding to be used for renovations to public facilities that are leased as public pre-K programs. It also requires the Maryland State Department of Education to bring as many private pre-K providers into the state system as possible.

 

 

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