AFT-Maryland shows mettle in General Assembly session

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The 2015 Maryland General Assembly session ended in April with lawmakers restoring funds for strong public schools, standing behind a negotiated pay increase for state employees, and blocking reckless legislation on charter schools and private school tax credits—actions made possible thanks in large measure to an effective AFT-Maryland grass-roots effort, working in concert with other progressive allies.

Ralliers at Maryland state capitolLawmakers restored more than 90 percent of the nearly $144 million in school cuts proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan in his budget. They also defeated a $30 million private school tax credit program and found the resources for a 2 percent salary increase for state workers.

Charter schools also were a big issue in the 2015 session, and lawmakers blocked a Hogan-backed bill that would allow charter school operators to declare themselves to be employers. The move would have upended current state law, undercutting teachers' rights in charter schools by removing them from negotiated collective bargaining agreements.

"After a long and sometimes hotly debated legislative session, the state is better for the admirable bipartisan work done by the legislators," said AFT-Maryland President Marietta English, who is an AFT vice president. She urged Hogan to heed the will of the Legislature and release the funding it allocated this year.

"The Legislature has done its job in finding the money; now, it's up to the governor to allocate the funds," she said. "We also anticipate Gov. Hogan funding state workers. To the governor and his supporters, 2 percent may not be much money, but to the hard workers who make state government function, it is essential to their lives."

English also thanked AFT members from across the state who took active roles in convincing lawmakers to stand up for strong schools and fairness in the workplace. Thousands of union members participated in letter-writing and telephone campaigns, lobbying visits to the state Legislature and a massive March 16 rally outside the Statehouse.

[AFT-Maryland, Mike Rose]