The National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE), a nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering the academic success for students, particularly those of African descent, held its 50th annual conference featuring a history-making keynote speaker: Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore.

The incoming governor opened this year’s NASBE conference following an introductory speaker who shared the many accomplishments Moore achieved even before becoming the first Black man to be elected Maryland’s governor, including being CEO of Robin Hood and a five-time published author, and his time working with Oprah Winfrey. 

Receiving a rousing welcome from the over 500 attendees who filled the National Harbor’s Gaylord Convention Center ballroom, Moore opened by saying that he was thankful for the hard work and complexity that educators have faced, particularly during the pandemic.

 “Being a counselor and representative of so much more than just educating,” Moore said, alluding to the enormous additional burden in a demanding yet pivotal career. Moore’s appreciation for that kind of dedication goes back to his younger days when educators helped him to find his path in life following troubles in his early life.

He acknowledged his two-year college, Valley Forge Academy in suburban Philadelphia, as a huge foundational piece of his upbringing, shown by wearing his commemorative ring. That doesn’t diminish his pride in being the first Black Rhodes Scholar from Johns Hopkins University or his pride in Maryland’s four HBCUs (Morgan State, Bowie State, Coppin State and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore). 

Moore recited his family’s history, going back to his grandfather who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica and became the first Black minister in the Dutch Reformed Church, and his grandmother, who was an educator herself. His family history and his experiences have led Moore to believe that “making history is not the assignment: it is the opportunity to fulfill the assignment.”

As he prepares to enter office this January, Moore said he is extremely excited he won with the largest margin since Donald Schaefer in 1986 — giving quite a mandate for change. 

“The people of this state did what you do for our students every day: you see them for who they are, the hope and the promise they possess. Not seeing them as deficits to be fixed, but as assets to be invested in,” he said. “Marylanders saw the son of a single mom from Jamaica, saw someone who watched his father die in front of him at a young age due to lack of healthcare and saw someone who was saved by educators.”

“I will take office on Jan. 18,” Moore added, drawing massive applause. When he said that he was only the third Black governor in American history, the crowd murmured, some with shock, agreement and recognition. 

Moore will be sworn in this January and one of his main tasks as governor will be funding and implementing the Kirwan Commission’s Blueprint for Education. This commission has been formed, but has not yet provided its full list of policy recommendations nor its funding mechanism. 

Some of Moore’s policy plans for education include creating an education system that offers a platform for all children to succeed, considers elements such as dental and mental healthcare in their success and builds a pipeline of Black educators to the classroom. Gov. Moore will also have some oversight of the $577 million HBCU lawsuit settlement that was rendered in 2021. 

When asked what Governor Moore could do to retain Black educators, Anne Arundel County educator Keanuú Smith-Brown said that “equity and investment is key”. Some of the ideas that he believes would retain existing Black educators include monetary support, tax breaks, and housing credits to help ensure long-term affordability and help make educators a part of the community that they teach in. In Smith-Brown’s opinion, implementing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is a step forward but not enough in itself to significantly increase the ranks of Black educators.

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