As the General Assembly session nears, school funding is looming as the top issue for legislators and their new leadership teams. Public discourse is already raising multiple angles on the ambitious plan and its road ahead.
The Kirwan plan, a multi-year proposal to ramp up funding and expectations for “world class schools,” is already dominating the legislative discussion – even as the session hasn’t kicked off.
MarylandReporter.com has a thorough summary of these issues, including a direct interview with incoming Senate Budget & Taxation Committee Chair Guy Guzzone, whose committee will be part of the bill’s direct considerations. Guzzone speaks about a step by step approach to reaching the Commission’s (and the legisaltion’s) goals:
“If you’re going to spend all this money, you want to see results,” Guzzone said in an interview [in December]. “What I believe by now at this point is that we have the resources right now to get this going. We have the resources to see improvements along the way.”
“And we’re going to keep checking. And every time we check and realize that we’re succeeding and we’re reaching the next level of success, we can say, OK, let’s figure out how to fund that next level. I think that’s the right way to think about it.”
The means to pay for the ambitious and costly plan are a major part of the pre-session conversation – including a pledge by House Speaker Adrienne Jones and incoming Senate President Bill Ferguson regarding tax increases. The pair has ruled out increases in the state’s main revenue sources. As covered by the Washington Post:
Maryland’s new legislative leaders flatly ruled out raising income, property or sales tax rates this year to pay for sweeping education measures.
The declarations from new House speaker Adrienne A. Jones and incoming Senate president Bill Ferguson means policymakers will search elsewhere for hundreds of millions of dollars to launch an effort designed to make Maryland’s public schools the envy of the world.
In separate interviews with The Washington Post this week, the Democratic presiding officers each vowed to pass the entire costly education package, known as the Kirwan plan, without resorting to traditional tax hikes.
The Post then carried an item from Prince George’s County Council Member Jolene Ivey, who also focuses on the means to fund the plan, and finds the local capacity insufficient…wondering “whose taxes will go up? A snippet here:
With other reductions in funding from the state, plus shifting some of the burden of teacher pensions to the local jurisdictions, our well here in Prince George’s County is running dry. For all of the good that would come from implementing the Kirwan Commission’s proposal using its current funding formula, fixed- and low-income Prince Georgians and the communities they have called home for years would undoubtedly bear the burden of what would need to be steep increases in county property taxes to raise the $360.9 million in new revenue.
Stay tuned for more of this continuing story – as all parties expect the Kirwan plan, its implementing legislation, and the fiscal consequences of its passage, are center stage for the 2020 legislative session.