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Mary-Dulany James on Education

Education

Part I – The Classroom

Living in the State that is home to the #1 public school system in the Nation for the 6th consecutive year is a source of great pride for Delegate James. Protecting funding for education must be a key priority for all legislators and Mary-Dulany has been a fervent supporter of education for the entirety of her legislative career. As someone who was educated in Harford County public schools and attended State schools for both her bachelor's and law degrees, Mary-Dulany recognizes that the first-rate public education in Maryland must remain one of the State’s top priorities. For the past 15 years, Delegate James has fought for and protected the funding and other resources that have made Maryland’s schools the best in the country.

In her first legislative term, Mary-Dulany proudly supported the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act, frequently referred to as the Thornton Act, which has helped Maryland become a leader in public education throughout the country. With the passage of this bill, Maryland became the first state in the country to enact a comprehensive reform of its school funding based on the principles of adequacy and equity. The new funding scheme increased education funding throughout the State by 82% between 2002 and 2009, totaling an increase of over $3.4 billion dollars. This additional funding has allowed all of the State’s school systems to raise student achievement levels and has placed Maryland’s public education system at the top of the rankings throughout the United States. In Harford and Cecil Counties, this has meant hundreds of millions of new dollars going towards educating our children.

Additionally, in 2012 Mary-Dulany was at the forefront of passing legislation to ensure that all the counties within the State did their part to provide a top-notch education for Maryland’s children. The legislation was intended to protect the State’s investment in education by requiring counties to maintain adequate levels of funding for education at the local level, while also permitting the counties to make necessary adjustments during tough economic times. The legislation also closed loopholes in the existing law by requiring the counties that wish to make cuts to provide an adequate explanation to the State Department of Education as to why such cuts are necessary. This allows for governmental oversight to guarantee that the counties comply with their obligation to provide our children with the top-flight education that the citizens of Maryland both expect and deserve.

In one of her proudest accomplishments, while chairing the Pension Subcommittee, Delegate James modernized the State’s teacher pension system by elevating benefits for all teachers across the State, making pension benefits competitive with those available in other states, and helping counties attract and retain highly qualified teachers.

Most recently, in 2013, Mary-Dulany co-sponsored a bill to make primary and secondary education more accessible by requiring the implementation of online courses and services throughout the State. This bill also requires that the Maryland State Department of Education make online courses accessible to individuals with disabilities, such as blindness.

Part II – The School Buildings

As a result of Mary-Dulany James’ leadership on the capital budget, the State has made historic investment in school construction over the past 10 years. Cumulatively, this has provided over $2.7 billion for new schools or to repair existing schools. In Harford County, this has meant nearly $124 million going towards improving the school facilities for our children. These funds have been used to facilitate the construction of new state of the art schools in Harford County, including Patterson Mill Middle School and High School, Bel Air High School, Edgewood High School, and Aberdeen High School. Construction of new schools such as these ensures that our children are being provided with an environment that promotes their learning and gives them every opportunity to succeed.

Part III – Access to College

Access to higher education is also a critical component in ensuring that our citizens have fulfilling lives and the ability to raise a family. Keeping college affordable is a must. While many states have experienced large tuition increases at their public institutions of higher education, tuition in Maryland has risen just three percent per year over the last three years. Furthermore, these increases occurred only after a four year period during which Mary-Dulany and her colleagues implemented a tuition freeze, keeping tuition costs constant at all institutions of higher learning throughout the State.

Mary-Dulany is also a strong supporter of our community colleges, helping pass legislation to increase funding for the State’s community college program. These funding increases are being phased in over a five-year period, starting with an increase of $3.7 million in 2008, which is expected to rise to total $48.9 million by the time it is completely phased in as of 2013.

In 2012, Delegate James co-sponsored a bill to establish the Northeast Maryland Higher Education Advisory Board. The purpose of the Board is to promote development of higher education in Cecil and Harford counties by establishing the goals and objectives of the four institutions that offer approved undergraduate and graduate programs in those counties. The Board is also charged with facilitating interactions among the business, nonprofit, education, and military communities.

Finally, Mary-Dulany’s representation in Annapolis has resulted in the start of construction on the multi-million dollar Towson University Academic Building at Harford Community College. This three-story facility will serve as the home of the partnership between Towson University and Harford Community College, allowing both undergraduate and graduate students in Harford County to take Towson University classes without having to leave the Harford Campus.

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