Written Testimony October 25, 2017
Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education
Service Employees International Union, Local 500, CTW, CLC
SEIU Local 500 represents over 20,000 working people in Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia. The Local represents the support staff in the Montgomery County Public School system (MCPS), Family Child Care Providers across the state of Maryland, Adjunct Faculty at several Maryland colleges and universities, as well as other workers. Our educators pride ourselves on the fact that our members play a role in a student’s full educational career. From early childhood to the completion of a terminal degree our members are there to facilitate the full educational growth of students. This unique situation gives our members and organization a holistic view of what is needed to provide a top-of-the-line education from start to finish for Maryland’s children.
Maryland is currently exploring changes to the funding formula for public education that include early childhood education, Pre-Kindergarten Expansion, and K-12 funding through the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. The commission has a unique game-changing opportunity to improve public education in Maryland. As elected officials and commission members have this important debate, SEIU Local 500 strongly recommends that the commission maintain the current Geographical Cost of Education Index (GCEI). When the Thornton Formula was developed, the state recognized that the cost of educating a student is not universal across counties in Maryland. It simply costs more money to educate a child in Montgomery County than it does in many other parts of the state. If the GCEI is allowed to be cut, this would undoubtedly result in cuts at MCPS (and other school systems as well) and harm the educational growth of our students. This is the wrong direction to take when the state and county are doing everything possible to close the achievement gap. Any potential cuts would have a negative lasting effect on student outcomes, particularly those who are the most vulnerable. School systems are already stretched too thin as employees are having their hours cut, demand for educational access is increasing, and educational positions are going unfilled. This is all taking place while there are exponential increases in student enrollment. MCPS and local taxpayers simply cannot afford for the state to not hold up its end of the bargain.
As the Kirwan Commission also looks at Maryland’s Early Child Education system and potential Pre-Kindergarten expansion, we encourage the state to utilize already working programs and implement a diverse delivery system. The Child Care Subsidy Program (CCSP) is working. It helps children receive quality early childhood education that supports student success for many years. Unfortunately, the program is grossly underfunded. The current state of funding for our subsidy program is unsustainable for providers because it does not meet the needs of the parents who so desperately require it and negatively impacts the economy of our state. Due to the underfunding of the CCSP program many families are forced onto a prolonged waitlist that not only has detrimental effects on the child but also on the child care providers and their ability to make a living wage.
SEIU Local 500 supports the expansion of any programs that provide early childhood education such as Universal Pre-Kindergarten. It is important to note that it would be a mistake to forget how profound an impact structured early childhood education from ages 0-3 has on a child’s development and growth needed to achieve school readiness. Many low-income families would not be able to afford 0-3 age child care if it were not for the CCSP program. Increasing funding to the subsidy program will also have an additional positive effect because it would grow the Maryland economy by putting more money into the hands of working families. The Kirwan Commission must also ensure that families are given a variety of early childhood and Pre-K programs to meet each family’s needs. Child Care centers and Family Child Care providers must be an important component of an early child care system, including Universal Pre-K. And, Child Care Providers are highly trained, professional, and credentialed educators, and therefore should be compensated in a way that reflects and appreciates their contribution to children and the entire state of Maryland.
Maryland is reaching a breaking point in our child care system and public schools by virtue of being underfunded. Simply put, Child Care Providers are being forced out of the industry due to low wages, and families remain on education waiting lists. Schools are overcrowded, and there are not enough support staff to provide the one-on-one attention to students that is so desperately needed. Because of this, SEIU Local 500 encourages members of the commission and all legislators to work with the Governor’s office to finally fund early childhood education and K-12 Public schools at the amount it truly costs to provide a top-notch education. Maryland needs to do better for our children, and, as a result, do better for all of us.
You can also submit written testimony at PreK-12InnovationandExcellenceCommission@mlis.state.md.us. It is imperative that Montgomery County is heard. We need to show up, be seen, and be heard to bring the dollars we need home to Montgomery County. The Kirwan Commission will be sending their final report recommendation to the Maryland Legislature in December. This is our moment to ensure that Montgomery County isn’t left behind!