Maryland Governor Signs Law to Bolster Tech Workforce

The $10 million, five-year P-Tech program will start this fall at two schools in Baltimore. In 2017, the program is expected to expand to schools on the Eastern Shore, in Western Maryland and in Prince George's County.

by Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun / April 26, 2016
Gov. Larry Hogan David Kidd

(TNS) -- On Tuesday, April 26, Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation that will launch a program under which ninth-grade students could obtain a high school diploma and associate's degree in six years, and be on track to land a high-tech job.

The administration initiative, known as P-Tech, is one of more than 170 bills the Republican governor is expected to approve in the second bill-signing ceremony since the General Assembly session ended April 11. In a nod to today's primary elections, the bills include measures to expand voting opportunities.

The $10 million, five-year P-Tech program will start this fall at two schools in Baltimore. In 2017, the program is expected to expand to schools on the Eastern Shore, in Western Maryland and in Prince George's County.

Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., a senior adviser to Hogan, said the governor hopes those are only the first steps. "The governor definitely wants to see it expand to other parts of the state," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels and IBM Corp. approached the administration after rioting erupted in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody. They proposed bringing the technology-oriented program to the city. P-Tech stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools.

Under the program, a high-tech employer agrees to offer jobs to young people who complete the tuition-free program spanning four years of high school years and two of community college.

"It's a true partnership between the business, the local school system and the community college," Mitchell said.

Stanley Litow, president of the IBM International Foundation, said the program was launched in 2011 in Brooklyn and has expanded to Connecticut and Illinois. Maryland, Colorado and Rhode Island are expected to join them this fall.

Litow said many in the program, which targets low-income and minority students, have graduated in four or five years instead of needing the full six. So far, he said, none of the P-Tech graduates have had to take remedial courses when they reach community college. Litow said the dropout rate is "virtually zero."

Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced plans to launch the program in Baltimore at a new conference in November. The programs to be established in Maryland can either be separate institutions or "schools within a school," Mitchell said.

Edie House, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore school system, said she expects an announcement of the schools to be chosen in the next few months.

Other bills Hogan plans to sign Tuesday include:

  • The Freedom to Vote Act, which requires state agencies to give citizens more opportunities to register to vote and to expand outreach efforts. In its original form, the bill would have made voter registration automatic for any eligible Marylander who did not opt out. As passed by the House, the bill attracted little Republican support, but it was rewritten in the Senate as a more bipartisan bill and passed unanimously.
  • A bill requiring an increase in the number of early-voting centers in Maryland's larger counties, while allowing smaller counties to add a second early-voting center if the local government and election board agree. While the measure faced strong GOP resistance in the House, Hogan spokesman Matthew A. Clark pointed to the high early-voting turnout before Tuesday's primary as a reason to sign it.
  • A measure allowing buyers of properties being sold by the state Department of Housing and Community Development to roll student loan debt into their home mortgages. Sergei Kuzmenchuk, the department's chief financial officer, said homes in foreclosure are fixed up before the state sells them. He said the state has about 20 homes now in various stages of improvements.
  • Legislation requiring that pharmacists and professionals who prescribe pain-killing drugs bolster their monitoring of patients to prevent abuse and addiction. The bill responds to one of the recommendations of Hogan's task force on heroin addiction and opioid abuse. The measure also increases education requirements for medical professionals on prescription drug monitoring.

©2016 The Baltimore Sun Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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