Kirwan School Recommendations Won’t Be Ready for 2018 Session

High-profile school commission will not have funding recommendations for the election-year session

Panelists present financing issues to the Kirwan Commission meeting October 25

The Kirwan Commission (formally the Commission on Excellence and Innovation in Education) met in Annapolis yesterday, and its chair announced publicly that the body would not have time to reach a set of final recommendations on school funding by December. This derails widely held expectations that its recommendations, translated into proposed legislation, would become a major centerpiece of the 2018 session of the General Assembly.

From coverage in the Baltimore Sun:

Lawmakers were set to spend the first few months of 2018 debating the first major overhaul of education policy in more than 15 years. Instead, that discussion will be pushed back until after the 2018 state elections.

William E. “Brit” Kirwan, leader of the commission issuing the policy recommendations, said Wednesday that his panel is moving toward consensus on recommending universal pre-K, a revamped pay structure for teachers and a new formula to more fairly distribute education funding across the state, among other measures.

However, there’s not enough time to calculate the costs of the commission’s recommendations or come up with suggestions for paying for them before the new legislative session begins in January, Kirwan said.

“There’s simply no point in producing a report the state can’t afford,” he said. “The alternative [to delaying it] is to have a wonderful report that is not based in fiscal reality.”

An article on the MarylandReporter website discusses the steps ahead:

Kirwan proposed the commission get as much done in its four meetings before the end of the year and then create a work group to meet with the legislative staff and consultants to determine what its recommendations would cost. He said it was not unusual for major commissions to ask for more time to finish their work.

NCEE President Marc Tucker told the committee that if the commission recommended some of his group’s nine proposed “building blocks” without making changes in the structure of education, “you would have a bill you could not pay.”

The consultants plan to work up a “dynamic model” for the cost of the each recommendation. That would predict “If we increase this, how much would we save on that,” Tucker said.

Materials from the Commission’s multiple meetings this year are available on the General Assembly website, and the meetings are all viewable online by searching the House Appropriations Committee room on the dates of each meeting.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties