The [Kirwan] Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was formed in 2016 to answer two questions: Should the State revise current education funding formulas? And, what major new education policies must be enacted to put Maryland public schools on par with the best in the world?
And while the Commission’s final recommendations won’t be ready in time for the 2019 session of the Maryland General Assembly, the pattern and role of county funding, spending formulas, systematic accountability, and resource equity are all still hot topics.
At the MACo Winter Conference roundtable session, “Keeping Up with Kirwan — What’s New and What’s Next for School Funding?” attendees heard updates from MACo’s representatives on the Commission, and discussed how to best ensure that Maryland students receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education.
Montgomery County Council Member and MACo representative on the Commission, Craig Rice, discussed the decision to delay the Commission’s recommendations, explained the plan moving forward, and provided insight on what issues remain on the table for 2019.
According to Council Member Rice, despite the setback, lawmakers are likely to allocate $200 million in additional aid to school systems for the coming year. That money, part of the State’s windfall resulting from federal tax reform, was set aside by the governor and legislature during the 2018 General Assembly session.
Short-term funding goals include increasing pre-K funding for four-year-olds, providing a pay increase for teachers, hiring community school coordinators and health practitioners in high-poverty schools, and implementing transitional tutoring programs. The Commission will ask for an additional $125 million in 2019 to provide more money for special education.
The now-former Allegany County Commissioner and MACo representative on the Commission, Bill Valentine, explained that while the Commission was able to develop detailed policy recommendations, the lack of information regarding the expected pattern and role of county funding required to effectuate the recommendations made it virtually impossible for the Commission to complete its work in time for the 2019 session of the General Assembly.
Valentine also stressed that because one-size-fits-all solutions rarely work in local government, the Commission must keep local interests in mind when developing final recommendations on curricula and spending formulas.
The Commission stills plans to vote on a final report in 2019. But the presiding officers asked the Commission to appoint a small workgroup “to review and develop formula recommendations to be considered by the full commission in fall 2019.”
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.
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. Prior to breaking for the 2018 legislative session, the Commission released a preliminary report detailing its preliminary recommendations.
The session was moderated by MACo’s Executive Director, Michael Sanderson, and held on Wednesday, January 2, 2019.