Category Archives: MCEA

Where Will the Apple Drop?

By Adam Pagnucco.

Many moons ago, when your author was young and blissfully new to the county, we wrote our very first blog post on the mighty Apple Ballot.  It was unimaginatively titled, “The 800 lb Gorilla of MoCo Politics.”  Then as now, the Apple was one of the most coveted endorsements in MoCo.  But my oh my, so much has changed.

Back in the Age of the Golden Apple, the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) was the centerpiece of a powerful political organization created by then-Superintendent Jerry Weast.  Weast was not a pro-union progressive by nature, but he understood that politics is a team sport and it was necessary to play it to get money.  So the Weast Machine included the education unions (MCEA, SEIU and the principals), the PTAs, the Washington Post editorial page and the school system’s internal Ministry of Propaganda.  (That was not its title, but you get the point!)  Weast traded real input in the MCPS budget for stakeholders in return for absolute loyalty in joint combat against the outside – especially the County Council.  Anyone who messed with the school system didn’t take on Weast alone – they had to go against the entire Machine.  Weast capitalized on his organization as well as productive relationships with County Executive Doug Duncan and County Council Education Committee Chair Mike Subin to get substantial and regular budget increases.  The whole system was greased by strong revenue growth and occasional tax hikes.

The District 18/Silver Spring version of the Apple Ballot from 2006.  This is the document that began your author’s career in blogging.

Those days are long gone.  Three major changes have occurred over the last ten years.

First, Weast jumped the shark – not once, but twice.  His first big sin was calling union leaders to his house to ask them to endorse Nancy Navarro in the 2008 Council District 4 special election.  That attracted criticism from multiple Council Members as inappropriate conduct by an appointed non-partisan administrator.  His second big sin was threatening to sue the county over a budget disagreement two years later.  These kinds of behavior helped convince Weast’s adversaries that he was not merely an irritant, but an actual threat, and prompted some to brand him a Rogue Superintendent.  That set the stage for the bitter budget battles to come.

Second, the county and regional economies were greatly weakened in the wake of the Great Recession.  The chart below shows growth in county revenue (excluding intergovernmental aid) over the last twenty years.  Red bars indicate years in which major tax hikes were passed.  From FY98 through FY09, a generally prosperous economy helped county revenues grow by an annual average of 6.2%.  But from FY10 through FY18, the days of the Great Recession and beyond, county revenues grew by an annual average of 3.1%.  (That does not include the recent $120 million budget shortfall.)  There is simply not as much money to go around as there used to be.  Accordingly, revitalizing the economy should be a huge policy objective for all of the county’s employee unions and everyone else who cares about funding local government.

Third, the local money that was available was not as directed to MCPS as it once was.  There are many reasons for that: the Holy War that broke out between the County Council and the school system in Weast’s final days; dissatisfaction with changes to the state’s Maintenance of Effort law; the state’s execrable decision to shift part of the teacher pension burden down to the counties, which is costing MoCo tens of millions of dollars every year and stifling funding for other priorities; and the growth of many other needs in the county’s budget.  Council Member Nancy Floreen defended the county’s record on MCPS funding and your author offered a reply.

Whatever the reasons, MCPS has not received operating fund increases commensurate with most of the rest of the government in recent years.  The chart below shows budgetary growth by major department and agency from FY10, the peak year before the Great Recession, through FY18.  The effects of the recently approved mid-year savings plan are shown at right.  Note that the time period includes the recession itself, the recovery years afterwards and the FY17 9% property tax hike which was marketed as a boost for education.  MCPS’s total funding increased by 13% over these eight years, roughly half the 25% increase for the total county government.  Non-local funding for the schools, the huge majority of which is state aid, went up by 33%.  But local funding for the schools went up by just 6% as the county spent its own money disproportionately on other activities.  Meanwhile, MCPS’s enrollment went up by 15% during this period.

The Weast Machine has been shattered.  Its demise was due to the decline of the economy, conscious policy choices by county decision makers and, ironically, because of the school system’s own leadership as well.  The key moment came in the spring of 2016, when the County Council conditioned its offer of a substantial increase in MCPS funding on a requirement that it go to reducing class size and not to increasing teacher compensation.  The Weast Machine would have resisted that condition, but the system’s leadership agreed to it.  And so the council voted unanimously to instruct the school system to shift $37 million from employee compensation to class size reduction and the school system reduced teacher raises to comply.  The legacy of this moment is that there is no longer a united front between MCPS leaders and their unions – a major loss of leverage in the school system’s dealings with county electeds.  The end result was not so great for the council either as voters, displeased by the big tax hike that year and not mollified by the compensation changes, went on to overwhelmingly approve term limits.

MCEA runs a Facebook ad against the $25 million mid-year cut to MCPS.  The union flooded a town hall meeting with the County Executive to protest it but the County Council approved the cut unanimously.

MCEA will be deciding its 2018 endorsements for county office in the weeks to come.  In the contested races for County Executive, Council At-Large and Council Districts 1 and 3, the mighty Apple Ballot could play a huge role.  Where will the Apple drop?  That depends on how MCEA answers the following two questions.

What to Do With the Incumbents?

Incumbents usually win and MCEA has endorsed the majority of them, including ones who were lukewarm on their issues, in the past.  But in this case, most of the incumbent Council Members voted for multiple very tough budgets, all of them supported reducing teacher raises as a condition of approving more MCPS funding and all of them just voted for a $25 million mid-year cut to MCPS.  Can those strikes be offset by other considerations?

How to Find Someone Better?

Let’s be fair to the incumbents: the recession, the new Maintenance of Effort law and the partial shift of teacher pension funding to the counties created very hard choices.  No matter what they did, the incumbents would have offended someone.  Would the legions of challengers now vying for the Apple’s attention really have done better?  Which ones among them understand the very real and very complicated budget issues that face policy makers?  Which ones will aggressively pursue economic revival, which is necessary for financing all county services – not just MCPS – and supporting justified raises for county employees?  Which ones have the competence to deliver and the character to fight for teachers, parents and students alike?

When those questions are answered, we will know where the Apple drops.

End Note: For those who wish to study MCPS’s funding history, we reprint the following graphic from the County Executive’s recommended FY18 budget below.

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MSEA Makes Early Endorsements

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) has made early endorsements in state legislative races.  The endorsement of MSEA and its local affiliate, the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), deploys the mighty Apple Ballot, one of the most powerful tools in MoCo politics.  The endorsements below are just the first batch and more will follow later.

In MoCo, the teachers are now supporting:

District 14: Senator Craig Zucker, Delegates Eric Luedtke, Pam Queen and Anne Kaiser

District 15: Senator Brian Feldman, Delegates Kathleen Dumais and David Fraser-Hidalgo

District 16: Senator Susan Lee, Delegates Marc Korman and Ariana Kelly and MCEA member Samir Paul

District 18: Delegate Al Carr

District 19: Delegate Bonnie Collision

District 20: Senator Will Smith, Delegates David Moon and Jheanelle Wilkins

District 39: Senator Nancy King, Delegates Kirill Reznik and Shane Robinson

All of the above are incumbents except Samir Paul, who is an MCPS teacher and MCEA member running in District 16.  None of them are surprises.  The teachers’ endorsement decisions on open seats and contested races will be very interesting.  We are sure that every candidate is waiting with bated breath!

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It’s Official: MCEA Drops Barclay

Interestingly, this decision leaves MCEA without an endorsed candidate in Council District 5. Unlike SEIU, they did not make the jump from Barclay to Hucker.

From MCEA’s Website:

Delegates attending today’s monthly meeting of the MCEA Representative Assembly have voted to rescind their recommendation of Christopher Barclay in the race for the District 5 seat on the Montgomery County Council. MCEA President Doug Prouty issued the following statement:

“As teachers and childhood educators, we hold ourselves to the highest of standards. It is what our community expects of all those in public service. We also believe that Chris Barclay has been – and we hope will continue to be – an important voice for our county’s neediest students, schools and neighborhoods.  Nevertheless, we regretfully withdraw MCEA’s recommendation of Mr. Barclay in the June 24th primary election for the vacant County Council District 5 office. We look forward to continuing to work with Chris as a member of the Board of Education. We believe that he – and we – can continue to be strong partners in focusing resources and attention on the challenge of closing student achievement gaps and narrowing the growing income gaps in our community. We believe Chris can have a good future in public service in the county. But in light of the recent news and financial disclosures, we cannot recommend him in this race at this time”.

The Representative Assembly consists of elected MCEA representatives from schools and worksites across the county. Approximately 130 MCEA Representatives participated in today’s discussion and decision. This action, like all candidate recommendations, required approval of a super-majority (58%) of those voting.

Approval of this motion by the MCEA Representative Assembly leaves the Association with no position in the Council 5 race.

 

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MCEA Final MoCo Endorsements

From the Washington Post:

The union representing Montgomery County’s 12,000 teachers rounded out its list of County Council endorsements Wednesday for the June 24 Democratic primary, retaining its 2010 recommendations of Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), Craig Rice (D-Upcounty), Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty), Marc Elrich (D-At Large) and Hans Riemer (D-At-Large) but dropping George Leventhal (D-At-Large).

The endorsement by the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) is one of the most coveted because it comes with a spot on the Apple Ballot, which is mailed to Democratic voters and distributed at the polls.

The announcement follows earlier endorsements of candidates for open council seats: Ryan Spiegel in District 3 (Rockville-Gaithersburg) and Board of Education member Christopher Barclay in District 5 (Silver Spring-East County). The union has also endorsed County Executive Isiah Leggett for a third term.

Ryan Spiegel and Marc Elrich seem to be sweeping up the labor endorsements. This is a nice one for Roger Berliner as the government employee unions are lining up behind Duchy Trachtenberg. Hans Riemer must also be pleased after losing support from other county unions.

Nancy Floreen has never been the labor candidate so probably isn’t too perturbed or worried about it. But being dropped from the Apple is new for George Leventhal who has also been frozen out by MCGEO, FOP, and the AFL-CIO.

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MSEA Legislative Endorsements

msealogo
Here are the endorsements for the Maryland State Education Association for the General Assembly. As always, I’ve done my best to note non-incumbents in boldface and Republicans with (R). MSEA’s endorsements in Montgomery County (Districts 15-20, 39) are identical to those of MCEA.

District 1
Senate: George Edwards (R)
House: Kevin Kelly (1B), Nick Scarpelli (1C)

District 2
House: Elizabeth Paul (2A)

District 3
Senate: Ron Young
House: Carol Krimm (3A), Karen Lewis Young (3A), Stephen Slater (3B)

District 4
House: Gene Stanton

District 5
House: Haven Shoemaker, Jr. (R)

District 6
Senate: John Olszweski, Jr.
House: Ed Crizer, Eric Washington, Michael Weir

District 7
House: Bob Bowie, Jr., Norman Gifford

District 8
Senate: Kathy Klausmeier
House: Eric Bromwell, Bill Paulshock, Renee Smith

District 9
Senate: Daniel Medinger
House: Trent Kittleman (R-9A), James Morrow (9A), Tom Coale (9B)

District 10
Senate: Delores Kelly
House: Rob Johnson, Adrienne Jones, Carin Smith

District 11
Senate: Robert Zirkin
House: Don Engel, Dan Morhaim, Dana Stein

District 12
Senate: Ed Kasemeyer
House: Brian Bailey, Eric Ebersole, Clarence Lam

District 13
Senate: Guy Guzzone
House: Vanessa Atterbeary, Shane Pendergrass, Frank Turner

District 14
Senate: Karen Montgomery
House: Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke, Craig Zucker

District 15
Senate: Brian Feldman
House: Kathleen Dumais, Aruna Miller, Bennet Rushkoff

District 16
Senate: Susan Lee
House: Bill Frick, Hrant Jamgochian, Ariana Kelly

District 17
House: Kumar Barve, Jim Gilchrist, Andrew Platt

District 18
Senate: Rich Madaleno
House: Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, Jeff Waldstreicher

District 19
Senate: Roger Manno
House: Bonnie Cullison, Ben Kramer

District 20
Senate: Jamie Raskin
House: Sheila Hixson, David Moon, Will Smith

District 21
Senate: Jim Rosapepe
House: Barbara Frush, Joseline Peña-Melnyk

District 22
Senate: Paul Pinsky
House: Tawanna Gaines, Anne Healey, Alonzo Washington

District 23
Senate: Doug Peters
House: James Hubbard (23A), Marvin Holmes (23B), Joe Vallario (23B)

District 24
Senate: Joanne Benson
House: Erek Barron, Carolyn Howard, Michael Vaughn

District 25
Senate: Ulysses Currie
House: Angela Angel, Darryl Barnes, Dereck Davis

District 26
Senate: Anthony Muse
House: Tamara Brown, Jay Walker

District 27
Senate: Mike Miller
House: James Proctor (27A), Michael Jackson (27B), Sue Kullen (27C)

District 28
Senate: Thomas Middleton
House: Sally Jameson, Candice Quinn Kelly, C.T. Wilson

District 29
Senate: Roy Dyson
House: John Bohanan (29B), Leonard Zuza (29C)

District 30
Senate: John Astle
House: Michael Busch (30A), Maria Triandos (30A)

District 31
House: Stan Janor

District 32
Senate: James DeGrange
House: Pam Beidle, Spencer Dove, Thedore Sophocleus

District 33
Henry Green

District 35
House: David Rudolph (35A)

District 36
House: Alan McCarthy, Irving Pinder, Robert Thornton, Jr.

District 37
House: Sheree Sample-Hughes (37A), Christopher Adams (R-37B), Keasha Haythe (37B)

District 38
Senate: Jim Mathias
House: Percy Purnell, Jr. (38A), Norman Conway (38B), Judy Davis (38C)

District 39
Senate: Nancy King
House: Charles Barkley, Kirill Reznik, Shane Robinson

District 42
Senate: Jim Brochin
House: Stephen Lafferty (42A), Robert Leonard (42B)

District 43
House: Maggie McIntosh

District 44
Senate: Shirley Nathan-Pulliam
House: Aaron Barnett (44B), Rainier Harvey (44B)

District 45
Senate: Nathaniel McFadden
House: Cory McCray

District 46
House: Pete Hammen

District 47
Senate: Victor Ramirez
House: Jimmy Tarlou (47A), Michael Summers (47A)

 

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SEIU Endorses Council Candidates

SEIU Local 500 has released their endorsements for Montgomery County Council Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4:

1: Roger Berliner
2: Craig Rice
3: Ryan Spiegel
4: Nancy Navarro (unopposed)

The most interesting endorsements are in Districts 1 and 3.

In District 3 (Rockville-Gaithersburg), Ryan Spiegel now has the endorsement of two major school system unions: MCEA and SEIU. Two nice endorsements in a hotly contested race with several high-quality candidates for this open seat.

In District 1, Roger Berliner has to be relieved to have received SEIU’s endorsement in his tough contest against Duchy Trachtenberg. So far, MCEA has not endorsed in that race.

The District 1 race could be shaping up as a proxy fight between the school system and county government employee unions. The latter have been mighty unhappy with the current Council and believe that the former have done comparatively well.

Roger Berliner looks among the more vulnerable Council incumbents. Duchy Trachtenberg is not labor’s ideal vehicle given her history but she is the only option if the government employee unions want to take out Berliner and exercise some muscle. Recently, Trachtenberg hired Robert Stewart, the just retired executive director of MCGEO, as her campaign manager.

High-income District 1–it includes Potomac, Bethesda and Chevy Chase–seems an unlikely locale for a labor proxy fight but stranger things have happened. Their divisions could also provide opportunities for other groups to have more influence.

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MCEA Endorsements

The influential Montgomery County Educational Association has issued new endorsements for state legislative elections. So far, these choices are very conservative bets. They have endorsed all but one incumbent running for reelection.

In District 16, Susan Lee is also a lock for the Senate. All of the endorsed non-incumbent delegates are seen as having good chances, though the races in District 16 and 20 are the most up for grabs with other candidates having strong shots.

The only outstanding endorsement is in District 15 where recently appointed incumbent David Fraser-Hidalgo has not been endorsed. Rumor has it that they had planned to endorse challenger Bennett Rushkoff but that he did not receive the required super majority. We’ll see if MCEA picks Fraser-Hidalgo, Rushkoff, or no one.

Here is the current list with non-incumbents in boldface:

District 14
Senate: Karen Montgomery
Delegate: Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke and Craig Zucker

District 15
Senate: Brian Feldman
Delegate: Kathleen Dumais and Aruna Miller (one still pending)

District 16
Senate: Susan Lee
Delegate: Bill Frick, Ariana Kelly and Hrant Jamgochian

District 17
Senate: No Endorsement
Delegate: Kumar Barve, Jim Gilchrist and Andrew Platt

District 18
Senate: Rich Madaleno
Delegate: Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez and Jeff Waldstricher

District 19
Senate: Roger Manno
Delegate: Bonnie Cullison and Ben Kramer (no third endorsement)

District 20
Senate: Jamie Raskin
Delegate: Sheila Hixson, David Moon and Will Smith

District 39
Senate: Nancy King
Delegate: Charles Barkley, Kirill Reznick and Shane Robinson

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