Monthly Archives: February 2017

MD House Ways and Means Committee to hear classroom digital device safety bill

screensandkidsPress Release
House Ways and Means Committee to hear classroom digital device safety bill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 23, 2017

(ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND) The House Ways and Means Committee of the Maryland General Assembly will hear legislation on Friday, February 24th at 1:00 that directs the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) to craft safety guidelines for the use of digital devices in Maryland public schools.

Delegate Steven Arentz (R-District 36) has sponsored the legislation, House Bill 866, “Primary and Secondary Education – Health and Safety Guidelines and Procedures – Digital Devices.” The bill has 25 co-sponsors and broad bi-partisan support. An identical bill has been cross-filed by Senator Steve Hershey (R-District 36), co-sponsored by Senator James Brochin (D-District 42) and Senator Susan Lee (D-District 16). It has been referred to the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

HB866 aims to protect Maryland students from the health hazards that medical experts have for many years associated with daily use of digital devices. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has had regulations governing the use of computers for office workers since the 1990s, but schools have no medical oversight.

“More and more experts are proving that there are serious risks to our kids’ health because they spend every day on a digital device,” Delegate Arentz said. “Maryland students need to get the most out of this technology, so we want medical professionals to lead us in a safe direction.”

Researchers have shown that many of the same health issues addressed by OSHA are now facing students who use digital devices every day in school. Retinal damage from blue light emissions, myopia, sleeplessness, muscle and joint pain, headaches, blurred vision, obesity, anxiety and addiction have all been associated as health risks facing students because of daily digital device use.

The bill has substantial support from the state’s medical community. The Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi), which represents all of Maryland’s doctors, voted to support the legislation at their most recent meeting, according to Gene Ransom, MedChi’s Executive Director. One of the co-sponsors, Delegate Clarence Lam, is a physician who leads Johns Hopkins University’s preventative medicine residency program.

Believed to be the first of its kind, the Maryland bill also has the attention of several large health groups across the country. The nation’s leading vision health organization, Prevent Blindness, supports the Maryland bill. Senior Vice President Jeff Todd wrote a letter commending Maryland’s “efforts to ensure children’s vision, eye health and safety is at the forefront of any statewide effort related to childhood development.”

Optometrists from around the country have also sent support to the General Assembly urging passage of this legislation, including J. Scott Sikes, O.D., a NC Optometric Society Education Trustee and Dr. Geoffrey Goodfellow, OD, FAAO, an Associate Professor at the Illinois College of Optometry and an attending optometrist in the Pediatrics/Binocular Vision Service of the Illinois Eye Institute.

“Protecting eyesight when it comes to the progressive use of digital technology and screen time addiction in young people is our number one priority” said Justin Barrett, CEO of Healthe, a company that creates products “to reduce exposure to harmful digital UV and High-Energy Visible (HEV) blue light emitted from such devices.” “We hope the lawmakers will pass this important legislation to set a precedent for other states in the protection of all students.”

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, PhD, LCSW-R, a nationally recognized addiction expert and author of Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids, writes: “I commend the screen safety effort in Maryland and strongly encourage the General Assembly to pass HB 866 and SB 1089 to mandate medically sound classroom regulations.”

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is a national advocacy organization with nearly 50,000 members, including 1,000 in Maryland. The group has asked Maryland lawmakers to give HB866 their “complete endorsement.” In a letter to the Ways and Means Committee, CCFC Executive Director, Josh Golin, writes, “It is critical that medical professionals develop clear, research-based, age-appropriate guidelines for the use of digital devices in schools.”

Citing its 30-page research document released in August, Parents Across America (PAA) is another national advocacy group endorsing HB866/SB1089. PAA notes that it “has prepared extensive materials about the harmful effects on children’s academic, intellectual, emotional, physical and social development when digital devices are misused and overused… We applaud the Maryland lawmakers who have responded quickly and appropriately to this critical situation.”

Maryland parents have rallied to support the classroom screen safety bill as well. Leslie Weber, Co-Founder of Advocates for Baltimore County Schools (ABCSchools), the largest public education advocacy coalition in the county, says, “This bill is greatly needed, especially in Baltimore County, where one of the nation’s largest 1:1 digital initiatives is underway. Children as young as 5 are in front of screens most days — objective guidelines from the DHMH are needed to ensure the safety of these students.”

Janis Sartucci, a member of the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County, said, “This bill is long overdue. Our children need to be protected from a variety of health risks that could affect them for a lifetime. We must get DHMH involved to be sure kids aren’t hurt.”

Queen Anne’s County parent, Cindy Eckard, has testified and written extensively about the need for medical oversight of classroom digital devices. Her Op Eds have appeared in both the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun. During a recent radio interview Ms. Eckard told WBAL Radio reporter Robert Lang, “Of course we want our kids to master technology; we just don’t want them harmed in the process.”

Ms. Eckard also noted that teachers have a legal duty of care to protect students from known hazards in the classroom. “This bill will help teachers too, giving them statewide, uniform safety guidelines, from medical professionals and specialists at DHMH.”

Links to medical research; recorded General Assembly testimony; a screen safety press conference held in Annapolis with actress/comedian Paula Poundstone, and detailed information regarding the legislation are available on the website www.screensandkids.us or email Ms. Eckard at screensandkids@gmail.com.marylandmap2

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PGCo Voters – Time To Take Back Our School Board!

rushernsegunkevin-1050x722By LORRAINE YURIAR on February 18, 2017

Yesterday, while potential candidate for governor, County Executive Rushern Baker was announcing the renewal of PGCPS CEO Kevin Maxwell’s contract, a bill was introduced in the House of Delegates to repeal the County Executive’s control of the school board.

HB 1565 will repeal sections of the 2013 HB 1107, allowing the PGCPS Board to return to an elected-only board.  Of course the school board, minus elected members Borroughs & Ahmed, has declared their opposition to this bill.  The board itself, especially County Executive Baker’s appointees, has plenty of scandal and corruption in it’s history.  While we the people have the ability to hold the elected members responsible for their actions at the ballot box, we have no way of holding the County Executive’s appointees responsible for their actions.  Add to that, County Executive Baker’s appointments have been less than stellar, getting involved with the misuse of credit cards, and even scamming free lunches from the school system.  And of course there is the matter of the County Executive hiring his former brother-in-law, Segun Eubanks, to be the Chairman of the board. Not only is Mr. Eubanks related to the County Executive, he is a director with the NEA, the largest teacher’s union in the country. One could question whether his loyalties lie with the students he is supposed to be caring about, the teachers he is paid to look out for, or his family, which includes his brother, Musa Eubanks, the Director of Community Relations in the County Executive’s office.  There is a whole spider web of connections within the County Executive’s office that look suspect, including having a sitting Delegate, Del. Dereck E Davis, working for the County Executive’s office, whose wife just happens to be the Deputy CEO of the PGCPS system.

Just to be clear —  Monique Davis was hired by CEO Kevin Maxwell, who was hired with the help of Segun Eubanks, who got his position because of a bill passed by the Maryland Legislature, a bill for which Del. Dereck E Davis voted.

The cronyism and corruption in the county run deep, and it all ties right back to the County Executive’s office.  This is why we must take the control of the school board back, out of the hands of an office that has been plagued with corruption for decades.  Doing so will give the citizens of our county the ability to hold the school board members directly responsible for the issues in the school system.  Issues like the cover-up of the problems in the Head Start Program and the sexual abuse of children – including special needs children that had PGC citizensthe local NAACP chapter, and even some PGCPS board members calling for the ouster of several board members, including CEO Maxwell.

HB 1565 needs to get the support of all Prince George’s County voters.  The bill has been sent to the House Rules and Executive Nominations committee. Please call your representatives, and the members of that committee and urge them to support this bill.

Read more at http://redmaryland.com/2017/02/pgco-voters-time-to-take-back-our-school-board/

Read more >>>  Kevin Maxwell, PGCPS CEO, gets four more years in Suspicious Circumstances

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Update: HB1107 Hearing in Annapolis Maryland postponed

14925273_10209778694056391_220817217610615058_nUpdate: The hearing concerning bill PG -402-17 which was to be held on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 8:30am, room 218 Lowe House Office Building has been postponed. Please check these links for the future hearing and dates.

http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=cmtepage&stab=03&id=hru&tab=subject3&ys=2017RS

http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=billpage&stab=01&id=hb1565&tab=subject3&ys=2017RS

School Board and CEO
If you are interested in testifying in support of PG-402-17, to return to an all elected school board, keep checking back to the links above.

We received this information late. You might want to call your elected officials concerning this bill.

See bill text at https://www.princegeorgeshousedelegation.com/legislation/bill-history?local=PG%20402-17

Read more >>> Kevin Maxwell, PGCPS CEO, gets four more years in Suspicious Circumstances

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Kevin Maxwell, PGCPS CEO, gets four more years in Suspicious Circumstances

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Kevin Maxwell, Prince George’s County schools chief executive officer, speaks at a 2016 press conference regarding an abuse case. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, left, seen with Board of Education Chairman Segun C. Eubanks, extended Maxwell’s contract Friday. (Mark Gail/For The Washington Post)

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) announced Friday he was extending the contract for Kevin Maxwell, the schools chief executive officer, giving the educator another four years to continue reform efforts despite recent abuse scandals that led to calls for Maxwell’s resignation.

It is the first time in nearly 25 years that a superintendent in Prince George’s County will get a second term. Before Maxwell, the state’s second-largest school system had seven superintendents in less than two decades.

Maxwell is paid just under $300,000 a year. He was appointed by Baker in 2013, shortly after the state legislature awarded the county executive broad new power over school-system governance.

His leadership is a central part of Baker’s plan to overhaul and stabilize the system after years of scandal, poor performance and dwindling public trust.

Maxwell, who grew up in and began his career in Prince George’s County, has seen graduation rates reach record highs at some schools. Enrollment and some test scores also have increased.

 He expanded full-day prekindergarten and language-immersion offerings, and increased participation in dual-enrollment programs that allow high school students to take college-level courses.

But the system faced sexual-abuse and child-abuse cases last year involving school personnel, including a one-time aide who now faces decades in prison. The allegations led to a federal investigation and the loss of control by the school system of millions of dollars in Head Start funding.

Maxwell cited letters he has received from grateful students, the number of strategic business and philanthropic partnerships that school officials have brokered and a more than $44 million increase in the value of scholarships offered to county graduates in 2016.

More than three dozen business, government, philanthropic leaders and school board members attended the announcement, giving Maxwell a standing ovation as he ticked off his administration’s accomplishments.

Absent were at least three elected members of the Board of Education, including Edward Burroughs III, one of Maxwell’s most strident critics. He led calls for Maxwell to step down following revelations that a Head Start worker forced a child to mop up their own urine and texted a photo to the child’s mother.

Amid the fallout, Maxwell asked his chief of staff to resign over an email that appeared to suggest that school administrators tried to keep the Head Start scandal quiet.

There were separate allegations of abuse, involving a school bus aide accused of molesting students.

Baker, who is term-limited in 2018, said he “never lost confidence” in Maxwell through all the “bumps and stumbles.”

“Have we had problems? Yes,” Baker said. “The question is how we react. . . . I want him to continue the work he is doing.”

via Washington Post 

OPINION

There has been a complete lack of accountability under County Executive Rushern Baker III that extends to CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell. Mr. Baker came in with promises of an Inspector General (IG) style oversight program because of all the illegal and ethics issues within the county leadership. He also said judge him by school performance but he has been failing and only being protected by Maryland politicians.

Maxwell and the Board of Education for Prince George’s county were among the first people notified by the mother when the teacher forced the son to mop up urine. There have been scapegoats but no accountability at the highest levels for the loss of 6 million dollars. What they have done is “study” the issue with the strategy of waiting for the news cycle to shift away from the rampant abuse in schools and loss of funds. The County also lost over a million dollars in state funds when Maxwell started his tenure. He said things like that would never happen under his watch, but it has gotten worse. Many of us in the reform movement are disappointed, not on the concept, but on the disrespect to the democratic process, violation of rights, unjust enrichments, conspiracy involving well connected political leaders advancing corruption,  the tortious interference of legal process and counsels in prince George’s county inter alia  #HB1107 #Rushhour

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County councilmembers question education budget items

county-councilUPPER MARLBORO – This year Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) is asking for a hefty investment from the county, and members of the county council want to know that investment will bring dividends.

The Prince George’s County Council’s Health, Education and Human Services (HEHS) Committee met with PGCPS Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell and members of the budget department to go over line items in the school system’s $2 billion request.

While PGCPS is not asking for all $2 billion from the county, John Pfister and Raymond Brown, two leaders on the budget team, said the school system is asking for a large increase in funds over previous years.

“We asked, or we appropriated, for $698 million for this current year. The total request for (fiscal year) 18 is closer to $831 million,” Brown said.

In fiscal year 2016, PGCPS received $669 million and received $698 million for fiscal year 2017 (the current year). Now, the school system is seeking a nearly $133 million increase in funds from previous years.

Karen Toles, the chair of the HEHS committee, had several questions about the budget, including specifics about past requests. She wanted to know how past asks from the school system were received and whether the council had awarded the asked amount or something else.

“Did we give you more or less based on what you asked for last year,” she asked.

The answer was a resounding less. In fact, Brown said he believes the county gave PGCPS around $80 or $90 million less than what they asked for.

And this year there is extra pressure on the county to fill in the budget gaps left behind by an updated formula for state aid. Brown and Pfister said PGCPS expects to receive less state funding due to a drop in Free and Reduced Meal (FARM) program enrollees.

“Our FARMs enrollment decreased by 823 students, so that was one of the drivers. The other driver was the net taxable income and guaranteed tax base amounts were a lot less than we anticipated,” Brown said, explaining that the total amount of state funding for all school systems only increased by $80 million this year.

However, the county is only required to fund the school system to a certain amount, the maintenance of effort (MOE), and that requirement only increased by $9.7 million this year. Still, the county has a history of funding the school system well beyond the MOE.

With an investment like that on the table, Toles and other members wanted to know what that increased money is going to.

Maxwell said the increase will go toward a number of projects including the expansion of pre-kindergarten, language immersion and the International School, as well as benefits for teachers and employees, including incentives for bus drivers.

“The largest one is under high performing work force. We’ve been trying to respond to the retention and recruitment of high quality teachers. And so, that is over a $90 million request right there to give everyone a step (raise),” Maxwell said.

Beyond overall funding, many council members had questions about specific parts of the proposed budget, which has yet to be approved by the board of education.

Questions arose about hiring practices for nurses, teacher retention, especially in Title I and “difficult” schools, the loss of Head Start federal grant funds, and equal educational opportunities for all students in Prince George’s County.

Councilwoman Andrea Harrison took a special interest in the new software requests, asking if resources are being pooled for students who are not in specialty programs or in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.

“For me, that’s very important,” she said. “While I appreciate the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, I also understand that not every child is going to go to college, but they still need to be prepared for life.”

Maxwell said the school system is looking into updated resources for vocational and non-traditional schools. He expects a recommendation for next year’s budget after an analysis into the current model.

Councilwoman Deni Taveras, as well as other members, asked about busses and the difficulty caused by delays and absenteeism, and what can be done to improve the situation.

Maxwell and Wesley Watts, chief operating officer, said PGCPS is working on an incentive program for bus drivers to improve attendance, as well as working on improving working conditions and growing a list of substitute drivers.

Todd Turner, councilman for District 4, inquired about construction at Tulip Grove Elementary, Advanced Placement Test fees and the growing demographics of students – specifically how the school system is handling refugees.

The board of education will take up the budget on Feb. 23 before it is send to County Executive Rushern Baker, III for consideration in his countywide budget proposal. From there, the county council will dig deeper into the budget before making a final recommendation.

Via Prince George’s County sentinelprincegeorges1

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AG Frosh asks for $1 million to exercise new powers after failing to disclose misconduct and widespread Fraud.

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House Republican Leader Nic Kipke, far left, argues against granting new powers to the attorney general.

Hours after the House of Delegates gave final approval to broad new powers for Attorney General Brian Frosh to sue the federal government, he was in front of a House committee asking for $1 million a year to hire five lawyers for his new mission.

The delegates approved the new powers for the Democratic AG to go after the Trump administration without the permission of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in a straight party line vote 89-50, with all Republicans opposed.

Republicans on the House Health and Government Operations Committee wondered why the fiscal analysis of the just passed Maryland Defense Act, SJ5, and its House companion, HJ3, stated that “The Office of the Attorney General can use existing resources to handle any litigation initiated as a result of the resolution,” yet here he was asking for a million dollars in mandated spending in HB913.

The mandated spending would not kick in until the fiscal 2019 budget begins July 1, 2018. For the next 16 months, Frosh would be using existing attorneys in his main office, but they would be pulled from other duties, he said.

The new spending mandate was sponsored by Del. Sandy Rosenberg, D-Baltimore, who also was the lead sponsor of the House joint resolution. The bill contains the same language as the resolutions authorizing the attorney general to pursue lawsuits.

The bill and the resolution explicitly mention “ensuring the availability of affordable health care; safeguarding public safety and security; protecting civil liberties; and preserving and enhancing the economic security of workers and retirees” along with protection of consumer rights, pensions, the environment and “the general health and well-being of [state] residents.”

A key difference between what the House passed Wednesday morning and the bill in committee is the joint resolutions go into effect immediately without the signature of the governor and HB913 is regular legislation that needs the governor’s OK.

“We’re opposed to mandated spending,” said Hogan communication director Doug Mayer, who refused to speculate about whether the governor would veto the bill. Hogan has consistently pushed legislation to reduce spending mandates, not increase them, since they control over 80% of the discretionary general fund budget.

Asked how they arrived at a figure of $1 million for five new assistant attorneys general and support staff, Rosenberg and Frosh said the model was a federalism division in the office of the Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a Republican.

Pruitt has been nominated as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency he has sued 14 times.

Frosh said he might wind up suing Pruitt if he tries to dismantle the Chesapeake Bay clean-up, an EPA program that was the subject of a Pruitt lawsuit.

Maryland Attorney General misconduct in Maryland is terrifying:

However, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh did not disclose to the Maryland general assembly that, his office has been violating Federal laws willfully in Maryland for many years by colluding with the corrupt state and union officials operating in Maryland to the detriment of many. The office is also involved in tortious interference of lawyers hired by employees in conspiracy with the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), ACE-AFSCME Local 2250, AFSCME International and others in the Maryland Democratic party regime.

Other violations by the Office of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General include engagement in Fraud, discrimination and misconduct by interfering with the Maryland court system in retaliation and defamation.

Unconstitutional and illegal. 

The extra powers the attorney General for Maryland has gotten are unconstitutional and only meant to serve close friends and well connected few.  His agenda has nothing to do with protecting illegal immigrants or Chesapeake Bay clean up etc as he and others wants people to believe. The willful violations of State and Federal laws the Maryland State attorney general has been committing is terrifying. We all should be upset after discovering the truth. We need to demand investigations and also call elected officials to conduct a hearing concerning these issues. Interference of state courts in an organized scheme to benefit a few close friends and family should be made a crime in Maryland.  (See Supreme Court Case No. 16A662; Mua v. The Maryland Office of the Attorney General et al; Mua et al v. State of Maryland et al  16-1435; Prince George’s County Circuit Court case No. 11-36992)

Prevalence of Prosecutorial Misconduct

According to legal News, Prosecutorial misconduct is, in the words of noted Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, “rampant.” Due to the lack of a uniform reporting body – each state has its own attorney discipline system – the number of criminal cases affected by prosecutorial abuses is unknown. Research studies have shed some light on this subject, though.

A 2003 report by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit government watchdog group, examined more than 11,400 allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in appellate rulings between 1970 and 2003. In 2,012 of those cases (17.6%), misconduct by prosecutors led to dismissals, sentence reductions or reversals. Few prosecutors, however, were sanctioned for the violations cited by the appellate courts; only 44 faced disciplinary action, and seven of those cases were dismissed.

As stated earlier this week, It is utterly depressing to have to accept the fact that so many legislators in Maryland voted to give more power to the Attorney General who is engaged in misconduct, if only by proxy, colluding in their own subjugation, but to understand why it has happened is incredibly important.

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The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous…. While the prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society, when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst. 

—Former U.S. Attorney General Robert Jackson

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Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh

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Partisan Hack Frosh: What he Stands For

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Attorney General Brian Frosh

Attorney General Brian Frosh seems to forget that his client is Governor Larry Hogan and that he serves the people of Maryland. These days, he is only in service to the Democratic Party.

Today, Frosh took to Twitter to whine about Governor Larry Hogan not letting him sue the Trump Administration and by sharing a Slate article:

The article is entitled “Maryland’s Republican Governor, Who Once Disavowed Trump, Won’t Let State Sue Against Travel Ban” as part of the clever Media-Democratic Party complex attempts to tie Governor Hogan to every single thing that Trump does, part of the Maryland Democratic Party’s Trump Obsession that’s already beginning to spiral out of control.

The real reason that Frosh tweeted the article of course was the glowing praise of Frosh as the savior of justice for the people of Maryland, or some such poppycock. Read it for yourself.

It’s interesting that Frosh took to Twitter to share this article for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is the fact that Democrats in the General Assembly are attempting to steamroll through the legislature a likely unconstitutional resolution granting Frosh broad authority to pursue legal action against the Federal government. But it’s also interesting that Frosh decided to take a stand on this particular issue. Considering Frosh took a stand on this issue, we thought we’d share with you some of the other stances he’s taken in his checkered public career:

And these are just some of the things that Brian Frosh stands up for. He puts being a partisan hack in front of doing his actual job as Attorney General of Maryland. He puts politics before people, and he’s being joined in this effort by Democratic legislators who seem hellbent on railroading this Joint Resolution through to give Frosh broad, extraordinary, and possibly unconstitutional powers.

But you have to ask yourself this: after seeing what Brian Frosh stands for, can we trust him to stand up for his clients, the Governor of Maryland the residents of our great state? Based on his history, the answer is clearly no.

Read more at http://redmaryland.com/2017/02/partisan-hack-frosh-attacks-his-own-client/marylandmap2

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