ANNAPOLIS (Feb. 18, 2018)—Legislation that would expand funding for pre-kindergarten and special education and encourage students to become teachers topped the list of priorities a state panel announced on Thursday.
The legislation, House bill 1415 and Senate bill 1092, also would create an early-literacy initiative and other resources for students living in poverty, and promote career and technical education.
Formed in 2016 by the General Assembly, the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education is often referred to as the "Kirwin Commission" after its chair, William English "Brit" Kirwan, former president of the University of Maryland and chancellor of the University System of Maryland.
The commission brings together representatives from across the state to review the findings from past educational aid formulas and hear from national experts on world class school systems to address education policy issues Maryland is facing.
Along with the new bills, the commission has proposed: creating a way for teachers to earn more; providing free or low-cost pre-kindergarten to every 4-year-old in the state; giving more resources to at-risk students; and reinstating vocational training in many high schools, according to the preliminary report it released Thursday.
The goal is to prepare Maryland students "to meet the challenges of a changing global economy, to meet the State's workforce needs, to be prepared for postsecondary education
and the workforce, and to be successful citizens in the 21st century."
Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, told Capital News Service the recommendations would be "a great first tiny step" toward looking at areas in need of reform.
The recommendations would be implemented in small grants—likely over the span of 10 years or so—and allow students to be tracked so the benefits can be assessed later, said McIntosh, who sits on the commission.
The Kirwan Commission, tasked with focusing on education funding, was told by a consultant that state and local governments need to increase education funding by about $3 billion, in addition to the approximately $6.5 billion the state spends now.
"The budget this year is going to meet the requirements for an outdated funding formula, created in the early 2000s, which never anticipated students coming from poverty or speaking English as a second language," Steven Hershkowitz, press secretary for the Maryland State Education Association said last week.
"As enrollment climbs our schools don't have the resources they need to stay on top," Hershkowitz said. "There was $2.9 billion found to be underfunded (by the commission), the schools need it desperately."
Gov. Larry Hogan, R, recently criticized the commission for the time it took to put together the report, saying that he might need to "send out a search party."
Delegate Adrienne A. Jones responded to the comments during a press conference Thursday saying she was "very disappointed" in Hogan's words.
This year's package of legislation is a "precursor of a bill coming next year," according to Kirwan; a final report of the commission's findings is scheduled to be issued later this year.