May 8, 2021
Dear Fellow Marylander:
Teachers are super heroes.
Think of all the extraordinary things we ask teachers and everyone who supports our children at school to accomplish during a typical year. Their job literally is to help students learn to think and do all the things we adults need to do to survive and thrive in life. Educators are some of the most important people in a child’s life, whether they reach a child in the classroom, on a school bus, or at home.
Now imagine trying to do this difficult job in the middle of a pandemic when schools shifted online, practically overnight, despite the fact that many families do not have reliable computers or internet access, or simply enough bandwidth for every child and parent to be online at the same time. And, by the way, millions of parents have now lost their jobs or been forced to work overtime in frontline positions that put them at high-risk for sickness or death. Students whose only reliable meals came at school are again food insecure and families – including the teachers’ – are physically cut off from loved ones who previously served as emotional support and sometimes child care.
As we close out Teacher Appreciation Week during one of the most challenging school years in modern history, it’s important that we take time to thank the educators in our life who have done herculean work under these most trying of circumstances.
Our dedicated educators have worked to support students through virtual learning, hybrid systems, and as they returned to school in recent months. I was proud to support the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the American Rescue Plan and other funding that has delivered billions in resources to bridge the gaps teachers have been dealing with since the start of the pandemic. Notably, many of these problems began earlier, but were made more dire during this public health crisis. We delivered funds for educational technology and broadband access, student health and food insecurity, student safety and more.
As a nation, it will take years to fully comprehend the detrimental impact COVID-19 has had on our students and educational system. Educators and school need our continued support. In Maryland, we have started to make transformative changes under The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. It will provide significant, additional supports for students in need, strengthen the teaching profession, and ensuring Maryland schools are the envy of the world.
President Joe Biden has proposed bold investments in American schools with the American Jobs Plan and American Family Plan that can accelerate the work we are already doing in Maryland. Together, they build on previous relief to ensure our schools – students, educators and families – can make it through this pandemic safely and be better prepared for the future regardless of zip code.
For starters, we provide funding to make our school buildings safer. Educators cannot teach and students cannot learn if the buildings are crumbling around them or leading to health problems. The American Jobs Act would provide $100 billion to meet local school needs, including the repair and upgrade of air filtration systems, heat/air conditioning, removing dangerous lead pipes and paint, and boosting Wi-Fi access.
Being ready to learn starts long before kindergarten and many students are at a systemic disadvantage. Today, only 34 percent of Maryland’s three- and four-year-olds are enrolled in publicly funded pre-school. The American Family Plan would invest $200 billion to provide universal pre-K to three-and four-year-olds so they are better prepared for school. The dividends may last a lifetime, as research has shown that pre-K attendance can be linked to higher rates of college attendance, lower incarceration rates and decreased chances of substance addiction later in life.
We need more superhero educators. Even before COVID-19, many school districts had serious teacher and staff shortages. Maryland must import nearly 60 percent of our teachers from out of state to meet our current needs. The American Family Plan makes the investments needed to attract and retain more educators, including $9 billion in funding to address teacher shortages – doubling scholarships for future teachers – and improving teacher preparation prior to stepping into the classroom, as well as strengthening pipelines for teachers of color at our HBCUs. Did you know that in Maryland only 25 percent of teachers are teachers of color, while students of color make up 62 percent of the student population? The American Family Plan also would provide help educators strengthen their skills and get in-demand credentials and teacher mentorships that enhance the ability of educators to reach students.
Educators are asked to perform extraordinary tasks on a regular basis, often without the support or resources they need. It’s time we took teacher appreciation outside of a one-week celebration and honor these professionals with the pay and resources they deserve. When we invest in our educators and schools, we are investing in our students – and the adults our children will become.
My favorite teacher was Ms. Eddie Brown, who taught English at Baltimore City’s Garrison Jr. High. She inspired me to learn and I thank her always for putting me on a path for success.
I encourage you to take time to thank an educator for their work and dedication. You never know which one will light the spark that carries your student onward.
Thank you for your time. Stay well.
(My second-favorite teacher is my wife Myrna, who taught fourth grade in the Baltimore County Public Schools. She inspires me daily, especially on Mother’s Day.)