Sun Opinion Page Hosts “Blueprint” Back-and-Forth

As the Kirwan school funding debate heats up in Annapolis, the Sun carries varying views on the logic behind, the resources for, and the solutions embraced, of the ambitious plan.

Dr. Alvin Thornton, Chair of the Prince George’s County Board of Education, and namesake of the far-reaching school commission that developed most of the formulas currently in place across Maryland, urges that Maryland policy leaders adopt and support the full Kirwan funding plan. From his Sun op-ed item:

Now the challenge before state and local leaders is to act decisively and approve the entire Kirwan Blueprint education reform plan and ensure that it is adequately and equitably funded with a progressive funding formula and a strong accountability system at the same time. Passing the Kirwan plan without adequate funding would be a failure of leadership and a painful repetition of the decision not to fully fund another education plan, the Thornton Commission recommendations, nearly two decades ago. We can change history if we can learn from it.

Dr. Thornton’s reference is to the lack of any newly identified revenue sources, or other secure funding, allocated as part of the multi-year implementation of that round of funding enhancements passed in 2002, and phasing in over the subsequent eight years.

Another view, also run in the Sun, in its Harford County focused Aegis section, is from Maryland Senator Robert Cassilly, who raises the arguable disconnect between spending and outcomes in education policy:

For example, one of the major goals of the Kirwan Commission is reducing the number of young teachers leaving the profession. The Commission’s primary response to that concern is increased statewide spending on teachers’ salaries. While I do think that teacher salaries should be increased, an NBC poll of teachers in Maryland and the region found that only 13% of teachers cited low salary as their reason for leaving teaching. Nearly 70% cited stress, lack of support and lack of student discipline. Increased spending will not reverse the policies and laws that have eroded teacher discretion, removed discipline from schools and made some schools an environment in which no self-respecting adult wants to work.

The discussion about school funding should only gather more attention in the days ahead, with the implementing legislation expected to be introduced any day. A hearing on the far-reaching bill is expected to be held at 1pm on February 17, in Annapolis.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties