The Kirwan Commission has been working tirelessly to put together a report that will define the state of Maryland public education for decades to come. For some time now, Maryland public education has been stifled due to inequalities in funding and priorities. In an interim report recently issued, the Kirwan Commission has outlined several policy initiatives to put Maryland schools back on top.
The Commission Chairman, Brit Kirwan, has said on several occasions that the commission is tasked with taking bold initiatives to move Maryland education forward. Kirwan knew the recommendations of the Commission would need to be drastic to deliver the kind of change residents and students deserved. The Commission has put forward a host of proposals that if enacted will put Maryland schools back on track after years of underfunding and neglect by the Hogan Administration. While Larry Hogan has attempted to nickel and dime our schools over the last few years the Kirwan Commission has solidly established a clear directive that we need to invest heavily in education or risk failing even further behind.
Members of the legislature understand the difficult road ahead in crafting legislation that will help students across the state. While making strides in education is not just about money, appropriate levels of funding around the state are essential. To make sure that students have the assistance they need, Democrats in the House and the Senate know they will need to update the school funding formula which dictates how those funds need to be distributed to do the most good. This is one reason Democrats have suggested a “lockbox” to protect the funds to be expressly used for education funds. The Commission has highlighted several policy initiatives that show a clear sign of the direction they intend to continue in as they continue to do their work. The Kirwan Commission Policy Initiatives are as follows:
- Early Childhood Education
- High Quality Teachers and Leaders
- College and Career Readiness Pathways
- More Resources for At-Risk Students
- Governance and Accountability
Targeted investment in early childhood education is critical, just like the rest of these initiatives. The Commission also understands the need to elevate the teaching profession or none of this will be possible. Teachers are a critical part of this equation of excellence in Maryland schools. While the Commission will not be able to wrap up their business in the near future, several bills have been offered up this session for the legislature’s consideration. A small package of bills put forth will deal with the following issues:
- The Commission would like to be able to extend their work into 2018
- A work group to examine career and technical education
- Making improvement to a teach scholarship program, also providing the funding
- Pre-Kindergarten expansion grants increases
- Providing after-school and summer programs for school with high concentrations poverty
- Creating a framework for teacher recruitment strategy with outreach to likely candidates
The Hogan Administration needs to examine these bills and the initiatives the Kirwan Commission has put forth and prepare to truly engage with the General Assembly and constituents. Holding back funding for jurisdictions around the state that are in critical need for funds to educate the future leaders of our state is not leadership or compassionate. Hopefully the Hogan will take direction from the Commission instead of trying to chart his own wayward course.