EducationLocalWilliam J. Ford

Kirwan Commission OKs Recommendations for Md. Education Plan

ANNAPOLIS — One of the most highly anticipated proposals to revamp Maryland’s public schools received a favorable vote Thursday.

The work started in 2016 by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education presents a $4 billion plan to expand pre-kindergarten to include low-income 3-year-old children, rigorous teacher standards and an oversight board to ensure local school boards adhere to the regulations.

The recommendations, approved on a 19-3 vote, will now go to the General Assembly, which much decide whether to craft any of the education items into legislation. State lawmakers reconvene in Annapolis on Jan. 8.

William E. “Brit” Kirwan, the former University of Maryland System chancellor who chaired the group also known as the Kirwan Commission, had a message for those who criticized the plan as imperfect.

It’s not perfect, but it’s damn good,” he said after the vote. “It can be tweaked as we can go along and it should be tweaked. I just have every confidence that what we have done is going to make an enormous difference. If fully implemented, is going to give Maryland for its children and its future a school system as good as any in the world.”

Although three commission members weren’t present, three others voted against the proposal: David Brinkley, budget secretary for Gov. Larry Hogan, state Sen. Mary Beth Carozza and Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jack Wilson.

“Accountability has to continue on and that’s the governor’s concern,” Brinkley said. “If we’re going to put more revenues into these schools and facilities, that it not be just for pay raises. That we’ll actually prepare students.”

The formal plan called The Blueprint to Maryland’s Future seeks to incorporate the dozens of recommendations by fiscal year 2030.

A funding formula for the state would provide $2.8 billion by 2030 and counties and Baltimore City about $1.2 billion for a total for $4 billion.

The plan is divided into five policy areas: early childhood education, high-quality and diverse teachers and leaders; college and career readiness pathways; resources to ensure all students are successful; and governance and accountability.

Del. Alonzo Washington (D-District 22) of Greenbelt, who voted in favor of the plan and is one of eight lawmakers on the 25-member commission, said the state must provide more resources to encourage high school and college students of color to enter the education profession. For instance, he said 8 percent of Black teachers and 4 percent Latino teachers in the state have national certification.

“I am disheartened to hear those numbers and that Maryland isn’t providing the resources and services necessary for minority teachers to be able to be certified,” he said. “That’s really important to the teacher lot that we have in this proposal because those teachers will make more money. They will become lead teachers in the schools. We need more African American and Latinx teachers that are in those positions.”

After the vote, several grassroots and education organizations released statements to express support for the commission’s decision.

This is a historic day for Maryland schools, but we now must take this momentum into the General Assembly session and turn these recommendations into law,” said Joe Francaviglia, executive director of Strong Schools Maryland. “Maryland has a chance to not only become the best education state in the nation, but truly set up our students to be internationally competitive.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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