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News roundup: Workgroup to assess higher ed policies, juvenile justice guide released, and more

A view of the Maryland State House from Maryland Avenue. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Work group to assess MHEC policies

The General Assembly’s presiding officers have appointed legislators to a workgroup that will assess policies of the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) wrote in a letter Thursday to the commission’s acting secretary, Sanjay K. Rai, that he has appointed Senate Majority Leader Nancy King (D-Montgomery) and Sen. Ron Watson (D-Prince George’s) to the 10-member Workgroup for Improving the Academic Approval Process.

King serves on the Budget and Taxation Committee and Watson on the Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee.

Earlier this week, House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) announced that Dels. Stephanie Smith (D-Baltimore City) and Kevin Harris (D-Charles and Prince George’s) will serve on the workgroup.

Smith and Harris serve on the House Appropriations Committee.

House Bill 200, a budget bill that established the workgroup, also requires that lawmakers from those committees serve on it.

Jones named Smith to serve as a co-chair.

Ferguson has not named a co-chair, said his spokesperson David Schuhlein.

Six other people slated to join the panel are representatives from Morgan State University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the University System of Maryland, the Maryland Independent College and University Association, the Maryland Association of Community Colleges and the secretary of the commission.

The budget bill also prohibits spending $2.5 million “until a report is submitted on recommendations to improve MHEC’s academic program approval process by making it a transparent, efficient, evidence–based, and timely process that allows institutions the flexibility to respond to the needs of the students and State.”

The bill allocates $500,000 each for Morgan State, St. Mary’s College and USM. The remaining $1 million would be administered by the commission as state aid for community colleges and private colleges and universities.

The committee assignments come after Maryland Matters obtained a letter last week that Morgan State president David K. Wilson wrote to complain that a business analytics doctoral program created by Towson University will duplicate a business administration doctoral program at Morgan State.

In his letter, Wilson wrote that the commission’s 4-3 vote last month in favor of Towson directly conflicts with legislation approved two years ago which authorized a $577 million settlement to end a more than 14-year-old lawsuit that accused the state of providing more resources for predominately white colleges and universities. In addition, the lawsuit accused the state of allowing duplication of programs offered by the state’s four HBCUs: Morgan State University, Bowie State University, Coppin State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

“It’s very disappointing to see what transpired because I think people want to have confidence that when decisions are being made that have such an impact, not just on the educational offerings, but [also] the financial bottom line of the institution,” Smith said about the commission’s decision. “It’s distressing.”

A spokesperson for the USM said in an email this week that the Council of University System Presidents received an update from system chancellor Jay A. Perman that a person to represent USM on the work group “will be put forward and we await word from MHEC on final appointments to that group and when it will begin its work.”

The work group’s report, scheduled to be completed by Dec. 1, would include recommendations for the commission such as:

  • Whether it should develop three-year institutional plans to help facilitate efficient coordination of academic degree program offerings.
  • With anticipated declines in enrollment, whether it should revise the program approval process to encourage collaboration among institutions to ensure viable programs.
  • How to ensure that the approval process complies with “applicable laws and legal precedents…with respect to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”

A justice guide for the Baltimore region

The Maryland Office of the Public Defender wants to help clients and others in the community connect to resources in the Baltimore region.

The office created a “Navigating the Juvenile Justice System in Baltimore,” a one-stop shop that offers a comprehensive resource for children to receive free eye exams and glasses, helping job seekers write a resume and summer activities.

Various state, local and nonprofit organizations provide the services and programs.

For example, the site provides a link for parents and guardians to receive information on child care scholarships offered by the Maryland Department of Education’s Office of Child Care.

The site was created by the public defender’s Opioid Affected Youth Initiative, which was created with funding by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The youth initiative focuses on providing support for those in the juvenile justice system who are affected by opioid use in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

“At [the Office of the Public Defender], we are committed to both helping our young clients and serving as a resource for the greater community,” said Maryland Public Defender Natasha Dartigue. “This guide recognizes the richness in services available for children in the Baltimore region and makes them more accessible to those with heightened needs.”

Trone announces first round of endorsements

Rep. David Trone (D-6th) released his first round of endorsements Tuesday in his bid for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate to replace Sen. Ben Cardin (D).

The owner of the Total Wine & More liquor store chain received slightly more than three dozen endorsements from current or former elected officials in Maryland.

Some of those supporters include state Sen. Majority Leader Nancy King (D-Montgomery), Frederick County Executive Jessica Fitzwater (D) and Del. Chao Wu (D-Howard).

“We are thrilled to announce that 40 elected officials from around the state have chosen to endorse my candidacy for Senate,” Trone said in a statement. “We are grateful for their support of our campaign, building on my record of getting things done in Washington. They endorsed me because they understand that Marylanders deserve a progressive candidate ready to work [on] day one on the issues that cannot wait.”

Trone also garnered support from Baltimore City Councilmember Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer (D).

“Baltimore — and our entire state — deserves a Senator like David Trone,” Schleifer said in a statement. “He shows up, he listens, and he fights tirelessly to address the challenges that we face as a community. He’ll be a leader who will build on the legacy of the great Senator Cardin, and that’s why I’m proud to endorse him.”

The congressman has two top Democratic opponents who are seeking the nomination in next year’s primary: Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando.

Jawando and Trone traveled to neighboring Prince George’s to speak before a group of Latino Democrats, which plans to host a Senate forum for Democratic candidates Sept. 30.

Alsobrooks has received the most endorsements from top Democratic leaders. In addition, her campaign said she raised $1.7 million in the first seven weeks as a Senate candidate.

Jawando and Alsobrooks seek to make history to become the state’s first Black senator. If elected, Alsobrooks would be only the third Black woman to serve in that chamber on Capitol Hill.

Jerome Segal, a former college lecturer who has run for several offices, has said he will seek the Democratic nomination.

Anne Arundel County businessman Juan Dominguez also may enter the Democratic primary race.

Meanwhile, candidates’ campaign finance reports that cover April 1 to June 30 are due with the Federal Election Commission by Saturday.


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News roundup: Workgroup to assess higher ed policies, juvenile justice guide released, and more