Cope is one of the most important Committees the BTU has, we encourage all members to use the COPE Committee as a way to get involved and to take action.
What is COPE? How does it work?
COPE stands for the Committee on Political Education.
Form the womb to the tomb, we are impacted by politics. Public education relies on public money to exist. Public money, usually in the form of taxes, is controlled by elected and appointed politicians. To influence decisions and the spending of public money for public education, we participate in politics through our unions.
Legislative battles are about to take place that will significantly determine key aspects of our work environment. Many of the improvements in our environment are not negotiated at the bargaining table, but instead, require legislation. In 2012, we must convince legislators to support legislation that would give us a voice on the school board and improve laws that we have in place.
We must be able to lobby effectively if we are to succeed in getting the laws we need enacted. Having a friend in the Governor’s chair is helpful when it comes to negotiating our terms and conditions of employment. It’s impossible to succeed in lobbying without political action. The brilliance of rightness of our arguments rarely persuades politicians. They want to know what we can do for them (or perhaps for their opponents). Those are the hard facts of political life. COPE funds give us political clout.
HOW ARE COPE FUNDS COLLECTED?
COPE funds are collected through voluntary payroll deduction. The Union can only contribute to fundraisers for specific candidates, and voluntary contributions are the only way to establish an adequate COPE fund. State law and our contract establish our right to a check-off for COPE.
WHO CAN SPEND COPE FUNDS?
The COPE committee makes recommendations. COPE funds are used primarily to assist our legislative friends on the local and state levels with fundraising activities, to raise awareness in the community about issues that are impacting our profession and our students and to lobby the legislators in support of or against legislation.
HOW DO MEMBERS CONTRIBUE TO COPE?
Members must fill out a COPE deduction card to authorize the amount to be deducted from paychecks per pay period. The minimum deduction is $1.00 per pay period. To sign-up for COPE, visit or call the Baltimore Teachers Union office at 410-358-6600.
The Legislative Committee
The Legislative Committee is another extremly important committee the BTU has.
Legislative Committee. This Committee informs members about legislation in the Maryland General Assembly and at the National level that impacts education and educators in the city of Baltimore.
The first day of the 2018 General Assembly of Maryland starts on January 10th. Hundreds of other education-related bills will be filed and included in the 2018 Legislative Agenda. Our efforts to fight on behalf of our students, schools, and profession include:
School Vouchers/Gov. Hogan’s Budget
Because the Kirwan Commission is expected to recommend increasing education funding, legislators and the Governor will ask from where this new money is to come. The BTU will amplify calls for the elimination of the wasteful, and ineffective, BOOST/Voucher program from the state budget as one way to source new revenues for improvements to the education funding formula.
As I mentioned previously, the Governor has indicated a willingness to again attempt to radically change Maryland’s charter school law by taking charters out from under the jurisdiction of the local school board. This would remove the union protections—including pay scale, benefits, due process rights, etc.—for any teacher and staff working at a charter school. In addition, Hogan has indicated a desire to give a statewide charter authorizer the ability to convert any public school into a charter school under this new proposed law. Although we have been able to thwart the Governor Hogan’s attempts to pass his bill every year, rumors in Annapolis are circulating that Hogan would like to just focus this bill on Baltimore City alone so as to avoid the resistance of some Democrats in Montgomery and Prince George’s County
The Committee on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the “Kirwan Commission,” of which BTU is a member, is currently reviewing the effectiveness of the state’s public education funding formula. The Commission will make recommendations on changes to the formula to the State Legislature by this December so the legislature will debate and possibly enact them in the 2018 session. The commission may recommend an increase—perhaps substantially—in overall funding to public education, as issue that may carry over into the 2018 gubernatorial race.
The Kirwan Commission—staffed with 20+ education stakeholders (state legislators and local elected officials, members of state and local boards of education, district superintendents, and representatives from unions and family organizations, chaired by Brit Kirwan, the former chancellor of the University System of Maryland)—is tasked with taking this study, looking at foundations for successful educational systems nationally and internationally, and making concrete recommendations to the legislature so that the formula may be revised in the 2018 legislative session.
Thus far, the Commission has heard presentations on teacher training and retention, CTE programs, pre-k and early childhood education, assessments, college and career readiness and community schools. Most of the presentations have been by Mark Tucker from the National Center for Education and the Economy, although a handful of districts have come in to talk about how they approach these areas.
On July 26th, the Kirwan Commission took up the question of funding for jurisdictions with high pockets of concentrated poverty. BTU, along with its partners in the Coalition for Community Schools, produced a presentation for the Commission on the effectiveness of the Community School Strategy for improving the educational outcomes for students living in areas of high concentrations of poverty. Our hope is that the Kirwan Commission will recommend that funding for wrap-around services offered through a community school be included in the new funding formula itself.
The Commission also heard analysis from Mr. Tucker that sharply criticized the state’s current model of funding especially poor districts. Specifically, Maryland spends 4.9% less on poor school districts than wealthy ones, the 16th most regressive model among all states. When federal funds are added to the equation, Maryland spends only 1.5% more per pupil on poor districts than wealthy ones, ranking 42nd in the country. Overall, while Maryland’s median income is the highest in the nation, we rank only 10th in spending on public education, 16th when adjusted for regional cost differences. BTU will push for a formula that more equitably funds especially poor districts, including the largest poor district in the state, the Baltimore City Public School System.
The Kirwan Commission will continue to meet through November to discuss adjustments to the funding formula, and is planning on getting public input in a number of regional listening sessions that will be open to the public. Nothing is final yet, but the commission is looking to have that session for Baltimore City around October 12th. When dates, times, and locations are finalized, we will notify membership and encourage participation.