Is the Kirwan Commission the Best Kept Secret in Maryland?

At a panel discussion at the Maryland Association of Boards of Education Conference, Commissioners on the statewide education policy group reveal process, timing, and outreach concerns.

The Maryland Association of Boards of Education Conference last week offered an educational workshop on the Kirwan Commission titled, “What You Need to Know About the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.”

According to the comments of the panelists and the audience, the session was aptly named.

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Panelists at the Maryland Association of Boards of Education meeting share concerns regarding opportunities for input by Commissioners and the public into the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.

The speakers, who are all Kirwan Commission members, shared detailed information and insight into the broad-reaching potential consequences of the Commission’s work. These include:

  • Expanding pre-K offerings to provide universal pre-K to all 4-year-olds in Maryland, and also to some 3-year-olds
  • Changing the way that we determine children in poverty, using measures other than the free and reduced price meal index
  • Altering certifications for teachers and developing a new career track for the teaching profession

At the same time, the speakers revealed how little consideration, assessment, and input has been provided over the past year on recommendations that are now due, according to the Commission’s current schedule, in less than three months.

Timing

  • Much time during the Commission’s public meetings has been spent hearing testimony regarding foreign educational systems of questionable relevance to Maryland’s public schools. For example, panelists point out that testimony on schools in Singapore and Finland provides limited insight. Maryland schools that exists in a society with different social services, and certain expectations for serving a range of special needs students as compared with foreign institutions.
  • According to the panel, very little time or attention of the Commission has been spent on its primary charge: “to review and assess current education financing formulas and accountability measures, and how each local school system is spending its funds” and “review the Study on Adequacy of Funding for Education in the State of Maryland.”

Process

  • No draft recommendations on funding have been formulated, and the Commission’s end-date of December 31st. Keeping to this schedule will provide little opportunity for Commissioners to comment on recommendations to change or update education funding models.

Outreach

  • The Commission is in the process of conducting public hearings throughout the State. However, without any draft recommendations specific to funding questions, the public hearings provide little opportunity for input, suggestions, or criticism on the central charge of the Commission.

Montgomery County Council Craig Rice is MACo’s Education Committee Chair and represented MACo on the panel. Commissioner Rice recounted how he’s heard the Commission called, “the best kept secret in Maryland.”

Carroll County Superintendent Stephen Guthrie is the president of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland and represents superintendents on the Kirwan Commission.

With regard to the Kirwan Commission, he stated,

 

Based on the pace that the Commission is working and the lack of analysis of the APA [consultant’s funding] recommendations so far, the Commission will not be ready to make a recommendation this December.

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Montgomery County Council Member Craig Rice speaks with members of the audience following the session about procedural questions regarding the Kirwan Commission.

The Kirwan Commission’s meeting today in Annapolis did not focus on funding, either, begging the question of whether the Commission will in fact delay it’s completion deadline and continue work through 2018. Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more coverage of today’s meeting.