ANNAPOLIS – One month before the Maryland General Assembly convenes Jan. 8, Gov. Larry Hogan proposes a plan he called “the next chapter of education reform.”
The first measure he labeled the Building Opportunity Fund would provide $3.8 billion in construction and renovation projects over a five-year period for school projects currently on the state books.
Another proposal called Community and Local Accountability for Struggling Schools, or CLASS Act, would allow parents and local leaders more input on changes in leadership and curriculum at schools that receive a one-star rating on the state’s school report card for two straight years.
“Education has been and will continue to be our administration’s highest priority because I believe very strongly that every single child in Maryland deserves a world-class education regardless of what neighborhood they happen to grow up in,” Hogan said at a press conference Thursday, Dec. 5 in Annapolis. “Sixty-four percent of our entire capital budget goes to education. No governor in the history of our state has ever invested more in K through 12 education.”
The legislation hasn’t been formally drafted and the governor provided no documentation last week.
However, the proposals face a Democratic-controlled legislature where its leaders will put force legislation to support the ongoing $4 billion education restructure plan from the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission.
House Speaker Adrienne Jones, who served on the commission, said in a statement she spent hundreds of others working to craft a comprehensive education plan.
“It is difficult to respond to slogans when there aren’t actual details behind them,” she said.
With four officials standing beside Hogan, they summarized the proposals, which mirrored previous plans.
The school construction proposal would use revenue bonds and casino money to build and renovate schools, but exactly how many remains unclear.
Democratic leadership presented a similar $2.2 billion construction plan last month at Forest Heights Elementary in Oxon Hill. The measure would cost about $125 million annually, which would mostly come from casino revenue.
Hogan’s budget secretary David Brinkley said the proposal wouldn’t go against any existing debt already put toward schools.
“People are saying we are tired of waiting for these schools for decades and we’re going to try to get them fixed and built,” he said.
In terms of the accountability CLASS Act measure, it comes from a plan used by the state of Massachusetts where it created “innovation schools.”
According to the state’s Department of Education website, the measure would allow parents, a superintendent, school principals, business and community leaders to help create “a school within a school” based on six components: curriculum, budget, school schedule and calendar, staffing, professional development and school district policies.
The state doesn’t allow private and parochial schools to operate an innovation school.
Under Hogan’s proposal, residents could request a school board to make a particular school an innovation school if it receives a one-star rating. The state’s report card summarizes that rating when a school has less than 30 percent of total earned points based on test scores, attendance, school environment and a student survey.
Hogan stressed he approves of some of the Kirwan Commission recommendations, but says it could create $33 billion in taxes, more debt, or take money away from other programs.
Kirwan Commission supporters said it presents a more inclusive outlook on education such as teacher salaries, expansion of early childhood, special education resources and school accountability and governance.
Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, said the accountability proposal resembles what lawmakers approved a few years ago from the Protect Our Schools Act. The measure allows county and Baltimore City leaders and residents from those communities to provide input on low-ranking schools.
“It didn’t seem like the governor had anything new to say,” she said. “The Kirwan Commission recommendations look at everything. We’re not just picking out pieces to talk about it. It looked like the governor was supporting status quo.”