The AFT-Maryland was in Annapolis Monday, January 30th for the 2017 Lobby Night. Members from across the entire federation addressed state elected officials on everything including budget items, education, and legislation dealing with state workers. Many of the Delegates and state Senators welcomed the AFT-Maryland and took time to discuss the issues that concerned our membership. Many also stood in solidarity with the federation offering their support on legislation deemed crucial by many of our members.
Our members addressed one of the huge elephants in the room—the budget crisis facing Baltimore City Public Schools. Members and education advocate partners lobbied legislators to find ways to fully fund education in Baltimore City and across the state. Teachers spoke first-hand of the various expenses they pay for out of pocket in an effort to maintain their classrooms. Librarians told legislators that the $42 million dollar cuts to Baltimore City education were all but crippling their schools. Parents who traveled with the federation lamented that this was the third consecutive year that Gov. Hogan essentially cut funding from Baltimore City Schools.
Members’ concerns about education funding also included BOOST funding proposed by Governor Hogan in his budget. The AFT-Maryland is opposed to the repackaged voucher program, and believes that every dollar of public money should be used on public schools. Many legislators agreed and promised to work to prevent the Governor from expanding the program, if they weren’t able to dismantle it altogether.
In addition to education funding, members of the AFT-Maryland lobbied their legislators to sincerely consider (and pass) a cap on standardized testing. The AFT-Maryland supports a 2% limit on class time spent on standardized testing. The federation in conjunction with allies, partners and educational stakeholders believe far too much class time is spent on standardized test. Many legislators, particularly those on the Senate Education Committee were sympathetic to the points our membership made and were curious to explore alternative options to the abundance of standardized testing in Maryland classrooms.
State employees had plenty of issues before the legislature, as well, and AFT-Maryland has taken strong positions in support of our members who work in state and local government. A priority among many members is a cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase as well as contractual step increases. As the price of goods and services rise and members’ wages stay stagnant, this equates to a pay cut. In addition to a call for step and COLA increases, the AFT-Maryland also lobbied legislation to end PIN attrition.
An important issue for state workers is also the environment in which they work. Delegate Lafferty has sponsored legislation to improve indoor air quality. AFT-Maryland state workers do such important work for the citizens of Maryland it is important that the facilities they are asked to work in are not a detriment to their own personal health.
The night was a great showing for the people power of the collective unions of the AFT-Maryland. Members had an opportunity to converse directly with their elected Delegates or state Senators. Many legislators were eager to meet with members who live in their districts and get a good sense of the issues important to educators and public employees throughout the state of Maryland.