Md. governor makes the case for high school students’ optional year of service

For the second time in a week, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore visited a state legislative committee to make the case for one of his administration’s priorities.

Moore testified before the Maryland House Appropriations Committee about his bill SERVE or Serving Every Region Through Vocational Exploration Act.

Under the program, “The service year option established by this bill would provide young people of every background, and in every jurisdiction all throughout the state, the opportunity to serve our state while also gaining real-world perspectives, skills and experiences,” Moore said. “The program will also be a financial bridge for students to find their footing as they’re entering the world of work and advanced education.”

Students would work a 30-hour week and would be paid $15 an hour. Upon completion of the program, they would earn a $3,000 stipend. There will also be opportunities for students to get guidance in professional development and financial literacy. Moore said businesses and nonprofits alike would be invited to participate.

Initially, the SERVE Act would include 200 students, expanding to 2,000 by 2027 according to House Bill 546.

Just as lawmakers warmly welcomed Moore when he testified in favor of his bill to reduce the tax burdens on the pensions of military retirees, lawmakers greeted him enthusiastically during Tuesday’s House committee hearing.

Del. Ric Metzgar, a Republican from Baltimore County told Moore, “As a Republican, it is refreshing to have the governor come to present his own bills. That means a lot to me, personally.”

Metzgar said what he liked about the legislation is that the service part of it will go on for years.

“I don’t see this as a four-year program. I see this as a 20-, 30-year program that could be expanded,” Metzgar said, pitching a potential partner — Tradepoint Atlantic, a sprawling distribution and retail hub in the former iron and steelmaking center at Sparrows Point in Baltimore.

Tradepoint Atlantic is home to facilities for McCormick, Amazon, Under Armour, Volkswagen and the Home Depot, among others.

Moore responded, telling Metzgar that during his campaign for governor, officials at Tradepoint Atlantic told Moore, “We’ll take 50” of the participants in the service year.

Del. Courtney Watson, a Democrat representing Howard County, asked about the capacity of the program.

“It looks like we’re up to about $3 million four years in, and that will provide around 2,000 opportunities,” Watson said. There are about 65,000 to 70,000 high school seniors, and looking at the fiscal note in the bill Watson asked whether the capacity would actually be larger than 2,000.

Moore said the program was designed with the idea that some students might not complete the program while others would not opt into the year of service.

Some will choose to go on to the workforce; some will choose to go on to higher education, Moore said.

“One of the nice things about the structure is there’s a measure of elasticity to it so that it can expand” as it becomes established, Moore said.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up