ANNAPOLIS — Earlier this year, WalletHub ranked Maryland as the second-most educated state in the nation, but the state’s report card rests in the middle of the pack.
“We have very good schools in our state. We have very good teachers in our state, but we don’t have enough of them,” said William E. “Brit” Kirwan, former chancellor of the University System of Maryland. “Teaching isn’t a career anymore. It’s a revolving door.”
Kirwan, who chairs the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, held the first meeting Thursday, June 20 for a subgroup of the commission that will propose new funding formulas.
State lawmakers wanted a funding formula completed before this year’s General Assembly ended on how to disperse $3.8 billion over a 10-year period.
However, lawmakers approved $255 million in this year’s budget based on Kirwan recommendations to increase teacher salaries, resources for special needs students and college and career readiness standards.
Gov. Larry Hogan, who allowed the measure to pass without his signature, allocated $725 million through 2022 with an additional $130 million if lawmakers pass legislation next year on how to pay for additional programming.
The 13-member group, formally named The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Funding Formula Workgroup, met Thursday largely to put together a preliminary schedule to hold meetings throughout the summer.
One of the group’s main functions will be to determine how to divide billions of dollars between the state and 24 jurisdictions based on enrollment, equity and wealth. Those three topics are scheduled to be discussed July 16.
However, larger jurisdictions such as Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties could be asked to chip in more money. Smaller school systems may continue to depend on state money.
Another topic of discussion for the group is the geographic cost of education index, which allows for school districts to receive greater compensation where education costs are higher. Kirwan said the commission didn’t focus on that calculation.
Other funding matters the group will address:
• Whether to include pre-kindergarten students in full-time equivalent counts.
• Whether to require local governments to pay shares based on a formula that deals with special education, English learners and low-income status.
• Whether to include ongoing school maintenance costs.
The group plans to hold a public hearing Sept. 19, one week before it proposes to make final recommendations.
The commission, also named after Kirwan, are slated to turn over its full list of recommendations to lawmakers by Dec. 1 that could be presented as proposed policies in next year’s General Assembly.
“It’s a tall order and the issues are complicated,” Kirwan said. “We are going to have a very tight agenda.”
Kimberly Humphrey, legislative counsel for the ACLU of Maryland, hopes there’s more than just one public hearing. She said other groups are working with the organization to ensure equitable funding for all students.
“We hope to see more public comment and public involvement,” she said. “This is such a quick timeline. We want to make sure we get everybody’s voice amplified.”