Kirwan Commission Finalizes Preliminary Recommendations

High-profile school commission wraps up preliminary report

The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its most recent meeting today in Annapolis. Known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, the Commission is charged with reviewing and assessing current education financing formulas and accountability measures.

After a series of marathon meetings, which featured expert testimony, consultant reporting, and citizen input, the Commission has reached consensus around key policy areas and preliminary recommendations. The Commission was originally set to complete its work in time for the 2018 session of the General Assembly, but last October asked for an extension when it became clear the deadline was not realistic.

Call to Action

The preliminary report begins with a “Call to Action,” which stresses that, despite a significant increase in State and local funding over the past 15 years, Maryland students still perform in the middle of the pack within the United States, which is in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the world. In order to compete with the best school systems, the report calls for Maryland to make a sustained, statewide commitment to systematic change.

Preliminary Recommendations

The commission frames its recommendations around five policy ideas: improving early childhood education, increasing quality in teachers, more pathways for college and career readiness, providing more resources for at-risk students, and more effective governance and accountability standards.

Next Steps

The Commission will break into a workgroup for each of the five policy areas, and, working with Commission staff, education consultants, and other experts, develop greater specificity for each of its preliminary recommendations in order to determine the fiscal impact of each proposal.

Legislation this session

Although the Commission will not complete its work until later this year, it will propose a modest package of bills during the 2018 session, including:

  • Extending the Commission’s deadline through 2018
  • Improving and funding a teacher scholarship program that exists in current statute
  • Creating a career and technical education (CTE) work group to determine how Maryland can develop a world-class CTE program
  • Expanding pre-kindergarten grants as a stop-gap until final recommendations are complete
  • Funding after-school and summer programs for schools with high concentrations of poverty
  • Increasing training for tutors and providing more resources for struggling students

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission. MACo is entitled to two representatives on the Commission, under the legislation.

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Chair, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Vice Chair, represent MACo on the Commission.

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.

Useful Links

Draft Preliminary Report

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