According to Education Week, a national newspaper covering K-12 education, in the last few years the State of Maryland has consistently ranked among the Nation’s leaders when it comes to providing quality public education. In fact, according to Education Week’s annual “Quality Counts” reports, Maryland ranked first in the Nation in public education from 2009-2013. As of 2015, Maryland remains among the Nation’s elite in regards to public education despite slipping to the number 3 ranking. While many Marylanders laud the State’s high education rankings, legislators like Delegate Maggie McIntosh still acknowledge the existing disparities between the State’s different school systems. Particularly, Delegate McIntosh believes that Baltimore City schools have significant room for improvement when compared to other school systems. For instance, according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2015 rankings of the State’s top high schools, 7 of Maryland’s top 10 schools are located in Montgomery County. In contrast, only one Baltimore City high school ranked in the top 50. When I had a chance to recently interview Delegate McIntosh, she discussed where her interest in education policy stems from, her distinguished career as a Maryland State Delegate, and shared some insight into what it takes to be an effective member of the Maryland General Assembly.
Delegate McIntosh’s involvement with government and public service began long before she was appointed to the Maryland General Assembly in 1992. Before joining the House of Delegates, she served on the Charles Village Board of Directors for several years, was the President of the New Democratic Club #2, and served as the State Director to U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski. Delegate McIntosh also managed various political campaigns, including the campaigns of current City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, former Delegate Kenneth Montague, and the 1992 U.S. Senate campaign of retiring U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski. Delegate McIntosh was also elected as a delegate for the 1980 Democratic National Convention. While Delegate McIntosh was heavily involved with government and public service before joining the General Assembly, her passion for education policy traces back to her days as a Baltimore City school teacher.
Delegate McIntosh, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts Education from Wichita State and a Master of Science degree from Johns Hopkins University, taught in Baltimore City Public Schools for nearly a decade. As a school teacher, Delegate McIntosh had firsthand experience with the issues that plague Baltimore City Schools. In part, Delegate McIntosh’s experiences as a school teacher led her to run for the Maryland General Assembly. It is clear that she believes the legislature is a powerful and effective policy driver in the State, particularly on education issues. When faced with opportunities to run for Baltimore City Council, she opted for the General Assembly because she believes it to be a better place to focus on education policy. “I was always more interested in education than potholes and Annapolis was the place to be if you wanted to focus on education policy” says McIntosh. That’s not to say that City Council members don’t do their part in regards to ensuring better education for the City’s youth; however, Delegate McIntosh believes that the more effective policy decisions are determined on the State level. With that thought process and with education among her main areas of policy expertise, Delegate McIntosh has had a lengthy and distinguished career in the Maryland General Assembly.
Delegate McIntosh was first appointed as a State Delegate in 1992 when a seat in her district was vacated. In 1994, she was successful in her first bid to represent Maryland’s 42nd legislative district which included Baltimore City and parts of Baltimore County. After being re-elected in 1998 and following redistricting, Delegate McIntosh was elected to the 43rd legislative district representing Baltimore City. She has continued to represent the 43rd legislative district in Annapolis since her election in 2002. Some of her notable legislative achievements dealing with education include serving on the Education & Economic Development Subcommittee, cosponsoring the Baltimore City Public Schools Construction and Revitalization Act of 2013, and supporting the DREAM Act. The Baltimore City Public Schools Construction and Revitalization Act of 2013 approved $1.1 billion to construct new schools in Baltimore City. The DREAM Act allows undocumented immigrants who are high school graduates the opportunity to receive in-state tuition at a Maryland public four-year college or university, provided they earn either their first 60 credits or their associates degree from a community college. These two bills speak to Delegate McIntosh’s commitment to quality education for all of Maryland’s citizens. It is clear from her body of work that Delegate McIntosh has remained true to her roots as an educator throughout her career in the legislature.
While Education has been among her chief areas of interest, it is not the only area of the law Delegate McIntosh has focused on throughout her tenure in Annapolis. When asked of the legislative accomplishments she is most proud of to date, Delegate McIntosh named cosponsoring the Marriage Equality Act and the legislation repealing the death penalty among her many favorites. In addition, Delegate McIntosh became the first woman in Maryland history to serve as House Majority Leader; she chaired the Environmental Matters Committee from 2003 through 2014; and currently chairs the House Appropriations Committee. Delegate McIntosh also was elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention pledged to Hillary Clinton during Clinton’s 2008 campaign for President. However, despite Delegate McIntosh’s many accomplishments, she acknowledges that she faces her fair share of challenges as a legislator representing the citizens of Baltimore City in Annapolis.
As a citizen of Baltimore City, it is clear Delegate McIntosh loves her city, regardless of its flaws. However she believes Baltimore City may sometimes be misunderstood by other members of the legislature. McIntosh mentioned that sometimes those in leadership and members from other regions of the State fail to recognize the “unique challenges” Baltimore faces. Among those unique challenges she cites certain areas within the City containing “concentrations of poverty”. These areas tend to have a negative effect on both the community and school districts within the area. She believes that much of her role in the Maryland General Assembly revolves around educating leadership and other members about Baltimore City and rallying support to resolve some of the City’s challenges. Delegate McIntosh plans on using her experience as a Delegate for nearly two decades and the lessons she’s learned about how to legislate in Annapolis to her advantage in this upcoming 2016 session of the Maryland General Assembly.
Of those lessons learned, Delegate McIntosh believes having the ability to work with colleagues and focusing on specific policy areas of interest are two of the most important characteristics of a legislator. She believes that to be an effective legislator, it is important to realize that being in the Maryland General Assembly is a “team sport”. She is a firm believer that when colleagues support each other and leadership, the support is reciprocated and members are more likely to effectively work together. In addition, she believes members of the General Assembly should choose at least one policy area they are really interested in and make it their legislative area of expertise. She believes that the best way to hone one’s knowledge in a specific area is through the State’s committee system. For Delegate McIntosh, education was, and remains, a policy area she has high interest in and a reason she continues to legislate on behalf of the citizens of Maryland.
In this upcoming 2016 Session, it appears Delegate McIntosh will again keep her focus on education and fighting for statewide equality among school systems. She plans to introduce legislation addressing school areas with high concentrations of poverty. One bill she plans to unveil would guarantee 9th graders in high poverty concentrated areas the opportunity to attend any Maryland college tuition free so long as they sign a contract to stay off drugs, go to school consistently, and meet other threshold requirements. She also plans to introduce legislation which would give matching grants to school jurisdictions with high concentrations of poverty. It is her hope that, with these grants, such jurisdictions can extend school hours and have summer enrichment programs to keep youth engaged year round. All things considered, Delegate McIntosh reiterated that her goal for the upcoming legislative session is to focus on the needs of Baltimore City. There is no denying that education is a huge priority and Delegate McIntosh is committed to ensuring the number 3 ranking Maryland received nationwide is reflected in the school system of Baltimore City and across the State.
To stay up-to-date with the latest news from lawmakers and policies in Maryland, check back with Harris Jones & Malone. Our lobbying and government relations services in Annapolis and throughout Maryland are carried out by a team of expert attorneys who have experience in criminal, litigation, procurement, government contracting, and labor law practice. Call us today for more information at 410-366-1500 and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.