Cardboard Cutouts of Kids Featured at Pro-Kirwan Rally in Annapolis

    Advocates have already found creative ways to mobilize around the unusual General Assembly session.

    Surrounded by about 20 cutout life-size images of students, advocates from the Maryland State Education Association and Strong Schools Maryland stood across the street from the Lawyers’ Mall in Annapolis Wednesday morning to implore lawmakers to override the Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s veto of a sweeping education reforms bill.

    “The blueprint is important now more than ever to help students bounce back from this disruption, from the trauma that we’ve seen, from the challenges they’ve experienced in the last year,” said Cheryl Bost, president of MSEA and a 4th and 5th grade teacher in Baltimore County.

    “We need support programs, we need tutors, we need wraparound services in the evenings and the weekends and in the summer where we can make up for some of the learning deficits that our students are experiencing now,” she continued.

    House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) have listed overriding Hogan’s veto of the comprehensive Kirwan education reforms among their top priorities for the 2021 legislation. Although both the House and Senate appear to have enough votes to override the bill, the House will probably not meet for floor votes until mid-February, lawmakers told Maryland Matters.

    According to the Department of Legislative Services, there is enough money in the Blueprint Fund and the Education Trust Fund Lockbox to pay for the implantation of the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations through 2026.

    “This is not a matter of whether we can afford to override the Blueprint. This is a matter of whether you choose to pay for the cost of not investing in our schools later on down the line,” said Shamoyia Gardiner, deputy director for Strong Schools Maryland.

    Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-Charles) was among the small crowd of reporters and advocates that gathered in front of the speakers Wednesday, about an hour before the Senate convened. He said he supports overriding the Hogan veto of the Blueprint bill and appreciated the creative effort of education advocates.

    “This is what our teachers do – they improvise, they come up with solutions and this is a solution to have a virtual cutouts of real people throughout Maryland and to present the message,” Ellis said.

    The State House is closed to the public, but outside rallies are still allowed near the State House as long as demonstrators adhere to COVID-19 guidelines. Lawyers’ Mall, the traditional gathering place for demonstrators, has been closed for two years but could reopen as soon as next week. Most rallies have been held instead outside the Lowe House Office Building.

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    Elizabeth Shwe
    Shwe covered California state politics during her internship at The Sacramento Bee. She is a 2020 graduate of Princeton University with a degree in political science. At Princeton she was a producer for WPRB 103.3 FM News & Culture section, the station’s only long form podcast-type program. Shwe also wrote for The Daily Princetonian, and tutored with the Petey Greene Program, which offers free tutoring to incarcerated people. Shwe is a Report for America corps member.