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Jennifer Beltz

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April 2024 Issue of The MABE Scoop: MABE Activities, Grant Legislation News, School Systems Honored for Innovation

Jennifer Beltz

The April 2024 issue of The MABE Scoop is available, featuring timely legal updates, news on three school systems honored by this year’s Magna Awards, and word on federal legislation introduced which calls for a $100M grant program to strengthen after-school programs.

Also in this issue, we share recent state and national headlines of interest, information on the benefits of “pooling,” word of MABE’s recent organizational update and more.

As always, we thank you for your valuable time and interest. Happy reading!

Fourth Circuit Ruling on Constitutional Challenge to Howard County School Board Process for Selecting SMOB

Debra Daniel

Kim v. Board of Education of Howard County involves a constitutional challenge brought by two parents to Howard County Board of Education’s process for selecting its student member of the Board. On February 8, 2024, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued its decision in the Kim case dismissing the parents’ claims.  A case summary summary and the bases for the Court’s decision appear below.

Kim, et al. v.  Board of Education of Howard County

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

On February 8, 2024, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in the Kim case involving a constitutional challenge to the process used by the Board of Education of Howard County for picking a student member of the board (“SMOB”). Two parents sued the board claiming that the method used by the school board for selecting the SMOB violates the Equal Protection Clause because it diminished their voting power by not giving them a vote on the selection. In addition, one of the parents argued that the SMOB selection process violates the Free Exercise Clause since it does not allow students who do not attend public schools, including those who attend private religious schools for religious reasons, to vote on the selection of the SMOB. The Fourth Circuit dismissed both the Equal Protection and Free Exercise claims.

With respect to the Equal Protection claim, the Court found that the selection of the SMOB did not amount to an “election” in the constitutional sense but was more akin to an appointment. In coming to this conclusion, the Court detailed the process for selecting a SMOB and stressed the involvement of the school board and administrators in the process from “beginning to end.” The Court further noted that appointments to the school board have been found to be constitutional and do not trigger the one-person, one-vote principle when an election is not constitutionally required. Notably, the Court found that “Howard County’s process for allowing its young students to participate in selecting the student member does not prematurely enfranchise them; rather, it provides a real-life civics lesson about the democratic process aimed at preparing the schoolchildren for when they will qualify to vote in elections held in Maryland.”

With respect to the Free Exercise claim, the Court found that the law being challenged does not burden religious exercise and is neutral and generally applicable. The law is considered neutral because, to the extent the law has an effect of excluding religious students, it does so “in spite of” and not “because of” those students’ religious reasons for attending a private school. The law is generally applicable because it excludes all non-public-school students from voting, not just some of them. The Court concluded that “limiting the choice of the student member to public school students is a neutral and generally applicable government action.”

The Court held that neither of these claims triggered strict scrutiny[1] and that Howard County’s method of choosing its SMOB survives rational basis review since it is “not ‘wholly irrelevant’ to achieving Maryland’s possible interests in making room for student perspectives on its school boards or providing students with civics training.”

[1] Under Supreme Court jurisprudence, a constitutional claim must be analyzed under one of three levels of scrutiny depending on the type of classification being challenged. If the classification involves a suspect classification (e.g., race, religion) or burdens a fundamental right (e.g., marriage, procreation) then the claim must satisfy strict scrutiny. If the classification involves a quasi-suspect class (e.g., gender, sex), the claim must satisfy intermediate (or heightened) scrutiny. All other classifications must satisfy a rational basis review.

Oklahoma Supreme Court Hears Case on Whether State Can Fund Religious Charter School

Debra Daniel

On April 2, 2024, the Oklahoma Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case filed by Oklahoma’s Attorney General challenging whether the state can directly fund a religious charter school. Regardless of how the Oklahoma Supreme Court rules, this case is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court and could have far-reaching consequences if states are allowed to, or required to, fund religious charter schools in the same manner as non-religious charter schools. More information about this case appears below.

Drummond v. Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, et al.

Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma

On April 2, 2024, the Oklahoma Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Drummond v. Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, a case filed by the Oklahoma’s Attorney General challenging whether the state can directly fund a religious charter school.

In 2023, the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted 3-2 to approve St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School,[1] which is to be operated by the Roman Catholic Archidiocese of Oklahoma City and the Doicese of Tulsa.  St. Isidore plans to conduct classes in the same manner as private Catholic schools by including religious teachings as part of every subject from math to science to history.

The Oklahoma Attorney General warned the board prior to approving St. Isidore that doing so would be unconstitutional under Oklahoma law, which clearly states that charter schools cannot be sectarian nor affiliated with a religious institution. Moreover, Oklahoma’s constitution prohibits spending public money for any religious purpose. Once the school was approved, the Attorney General filed suit alleging, among other things, that the school board members had violated their oaths of office.

Proponents of the school believe that recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings hold that religious institutions cannot be excluded from public funding programs available to non-religious institutions. The U.S. Supreme Court has found that the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion prohibits states from discriminating against religious schools simply because they are religious.

Supporters of the school argue that, if the school prevails, it would open up opportunities for school choice throughout the country. Challengers are concerned that such an outcome will lead to the need to spend significant amounts of taxpayer money on religious education.

[1] Interestingly, apparently all three members of the board who voted in favor of St. Isidore are no longer on the board.

The search is on for the next Superintendent of Kent County Public Schools in Maryland!

Jennifer Beltz

Are you passionate about education? Familiar with the groundbreaking Blueprint for Maryland’s Future? Experienced in Title I and Community schools, and working in a rural area with a diverse population? Ideally, you’re an experienced educator, decisive administrator, and consensus-building, innovative leader with a team-building approach. Qualified applicants are encouraged to apply.

Kent County is centrally located and within driving distance of all the East Coast has to offer, including sunny beaches, snowy mountains, small towns and big cities alike.

For further details and requirements, visit this page, or contact William Middleton at (410) 841-5414.

Now Available: 2023-2024 edition of Maryland School Law Deskbook and Maryland School Laws and Regulations Annotated

Jennifer Beltz

Given the complex challenges facing Maryland’s public education professionals today, it’s crucial they stay up to speed on the laws governing public education. To this end, and in efforts to help ensure public schools are innovative learning environments providing the key skills students need to be successful in college and career, the latest edition of the Maryland School Law Deskbook is available.

The Deskbook, the only education law reference of its kind in the state, is written by experienced education law attorneys and published in cooperation with MABE. It offers current and authoritative information on legal issues facing schools within the context of state and federal education law.

Concise, intuitive, and clearly written in a straightforward Q&A format, the Deskbook includes a comprehensive index and table of cases cited. It is considered the essential education law resource for school principals, administrators, school board members, superintendents, education professionals and attorneys in Maryland. We believe this timely edition will be a standout resource for Maryland public education professionals.

To order the 2023-2024 school year edition of the Deskbook, visit here.

Also available is Maryland School Laws and Regulations Annotated, a collection of Maryland education-related statutes in one easy-to-use volume which includes important statutes contained in the Education Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, as well as comprehensive coverage of Title 13A of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR).

You’re invited to order both the 2023-2024 edition of the Deskbook and also Maryland School Laws and Regulations Annotated together as a set by visiting here.

For further information about either publication, contact Debra Yerg Daniel or John Woolums.

MABE Representatives Asking Lawmakers for Support of Ongoing Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Efforts

Jennifer Beltz

At the Maryland State Board of Education’s 1/23/24 meeting, MABE representatives met with education stakeholders to lay out MABE’s legislative positions and priorities, and make the case for needed support for successful implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future’s education reform plan. MABE continues to support the landmark Blueprint plan, and has made the case for needed funding to accompany successfully implementing the wide-ranging plan meant to transform public education throughout Maryland.

Following the 1/23/24 meeting MABE President Michelle Corkadel shared that local school systems are facing affordability challenges for the program, according to a 1/25/24 Maryland Matters feature.

“It’s basically a conversation about unfunded mandates [and] that unfunded mandates have consequences,” Corkadel noted. “I would say if accountability, successful implementation and smooth coordination and transition are of your mindset, then helping to fund it should be the natural secondary course of action.”

To read the Maryland Matters feature (“Interim superintendent visits House panel, education officials lay out legislative priorities”), visit here.

Governor Wes Moore Names January 2024 “Maryland School Board Recognition Month”

Jennifer Beltz

Early this month Maryland Governor Wes Moore released a Proclamation naming January 2024 “Maryland School Board Recognition Month.” In his Proclamation recognizing local School Boards’ “work to ensure a rigorous and world-class educational experience for every Maryland student,” the Governor specified how greatly Maryland students benefit from School Boards “providing access to essential academic, social, emotional, and economic supports.” The Governor’s Proclamation comes on the heels of Senator Chris Van Hollen’s related statement in the Congressional Record last year, praising Maryland local school boards’ devotion, commitment and resilience.

Also in honor of Maryland School Board Recognition Month in January 2024, Maryland State Board of Education President Clarence C. Crawford is joining MABE Executive Director Milt Nagel in proudly sharing with each of Maryland’s dedicated local school boards a Certificate of Appreciation, singling out each respective school board’s dedicated leadership of their local schools and students, and applauding their “hard work, dedication, and achievement.”

THANK YOU to local School Boards throughout Maryland from the entire team at MABE for your continuing efforts in working to meet our collective vision of serving as a champion for excellence in public education. Your talents, innovation and selfless efforts are very much appreciated by so many throughout our State!

Major New Programs launched by MABE in 2023 to Benefit Maryland School Systems Show Impressive Early Results

Jennifer Beltz

In promising year-end business and wellness news, the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) has announced significant progress already achieved in two new statewide initiatives it launched in 2023 – the MABE Health Center Program through Everside Health, and the MABE-MACo Time to Care Act Collaborative. Enthusiastic early feedback received from Maryland school systems participating in the initiatives is particularly welcome, given ongoing budget challenges tied to implementation of the state’s costly Blueprint for Maryland’s Future plan to transform public education statewide.

“When it comes to the MABE Health Center Program, we see a huge opportunity to help equip school systems with innovative, proven cost savings solutions so they can offer different options to school system employees who value and appreciate their benefits. Many employees, especially support staff, are working explicitly for health coverage and care access for themselves and for their families,” according to MABE Executive Director Milt Nagel. “Whether it’s health care or other costs, it only makes sense that we do all we can to help make our offerings the best they can be in today’s challenging climate. We’re still in early days for our initiatives launched this year, but I am optimistic that we will reach our goal of doubling the number of MABE Health Centers by this time next year, with the added goal of seeing that all Maryland school systems benefit from the MABE-MACo Time to Care Act Collaborative.”

To learn further details about the MABE Health Center Program and the MABE-MACo Time to Care Act Collaborative, visit MABE’s related Dec. 11, 2023 press release here.

MABE Annual Conference 2023 Presentations and Photos

Jennifer Beltz

The October 2023 issue of The MABE Scoop newsletter is out, featuring Maryland Association of Boards of Education Annual Conference 2023 photos and presentations, word on upcoming MABE trainings, and recent public education headlines. You can check out the October issue here.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Annual Conference — your involvement and engagement made the gathering a real success!

MABE Board of Directors Announces Milt Nagel to Serve as MABE’s New Executive Director

Jennifer Beltz

Board members from MABE announced today that Caroline County native Milton (“Milt”) Nagel has been named new Executive Director for the statewide association which represents all of Maryland’s 24 public school systems.

Nagel, who currently serves as MABE’s Deputy Executive Director, begins his new role leading the statewide organization on July 1, 2023. He will take the reins from Frances (“Francie”) Glendening, who has led MABE’s efforts over the past decade, during which time she successfully sustained and expanded numerous programs and offerings for MABE members.

To read more details, including Milt’s goals and planned areas of focus, please visit our related press release.

Congratulations, Milt!