The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission, discuss an interim report on recommendations to revamp Maryland's public school system on Jan. 18. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

ANNAPOLIS — Lawmakers will review an updated report that outlines recommendations to revamp public education in Maryland estimated to cost $3.8 billion.

William E. Kirwan, who chairs an education group formally called the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, said he will brief lawmakers Thursday, Jan. 24 before committees in the Senate and House.

“This is a seminally important day,” Kirwan, a former University of Maryland system chancellor, said during a session last week in Annapolis. “We all worked long and hard to reach this point. I am hopeful this will not require a lot of discussion.”

The group also known as the Kirwan Commission met Friday, Jan. 18 for more than three hours to approve an interim report that recommends boosting early childhood education, increasing teacher salaries and building more family resource centers.

However, state leaders request recommendations on how to divide the cost to fund these initiatives between the state and local school districts. This is based on a request from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael Busch to continue work this year.

Kirwan said a committee will work on the plan after this year’s General Assembly session and provide a recommendation to the commission for final approval in the fall.

Democratic Sens. William C. Ferguson IV of Baltimore City and Ronald N. Young of Frederick County joined the commission last week to replace former Sen. Rich Madaleno Jr. and Stephen Waugh.

In the meantime, Gov. Larry Hogan released a proposed budget which includes $200 million allocated toward some of the Kirwan initiatives.

Delegate Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore City, a member of the commission, estimated another $36 million toward education was designated from the “lockbox” initiative for casino revenue.

“We do not believe this is sufficient,” she said. “We want to spend more. We will have to find in the budget, as we do, cuts that we can make so that we can do more for the Kirwan initiative.”

The report’s recommendations include:

• Implementing full-day pre-kindergarten for 3-year-old children from low–income families over a 10-year period.
• Gradually raising teacher pay to a minimum salary of $60,000.
• Opening 30 Family Resource Centers to ensure young mothers receive pre- and post-natal support.
• Awarding scholarships from the Maryland Higher Education Commission to eligible students that reflects geographic and racial diversity.
• Creating an Oversight Board to monitor school-level funding.

The commission implemented several suggestions from Ivory Toldson, a professor of counseling psychology at Howard University in D.C. Toldson’s suggestions included cultural competency training for teachers, hiring a more diverse group of teachers and providing resources and assistance to students from disadvantaged families for college and career readiness.

Documents also dissected certain words and seek to change phrases such as describing students from low-income neighborhoods to “at-promise” students, “meaning that they have the promise and potential to be successful in school if the education system is designed to meet their needs.”

Karen Salmon, Maryland state superintendent of schools and another member of the commission, bristled at the use of words such as “distressingly” to illustrate performance gaps in the PARCC exams.

“It’s starting to read more like a novel than it is a factual, educational report,” she said. “We don’t use language like that to describe things, at least in my world.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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