PoliticsWilliam J. Ford

Md. Senate Committees Review Comprehensive Education Plan

ANNAPOLIS — Two Maryland Senate committees reviewed portions of the nearly 200-page Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation their colleagues in the House of Delegates approved three days prior.

The Education, Health and Environmental and Budget and Taxation committees held a joint discussion Monday, March 9 in Annapolis on the $3.8 billion comprehensive education plan, which would expand early childhood education for 3- and 4-year-olds, incorporate college- and career-readiness standards and provide additional counselors in communities with high concentrations of poverty.

The House of Delegates voted 96-41 on Friday, March 6 on the measure based on recommendations from the 25-member Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission, after its chair, former University of Maryland System Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan.

The Senate committees reviewed the more than seven dozen amendments approved by the House. Staffers for the state’s Department of Legislative Services reviewed Monday some of the amendments, which include:

• A teacher who receives National Board Certification doesn’t lose a $7,000 salary increase if a school loses a “low-performing school” designation.
• Changing references of teachers from minority backgrounds to “groups historically underrepresented in the teaching profession.”
• Expanding the definition of wraparound services with 13 meanings to offer vision and dental, enhance physical wellness, improve student performance and other amenities.
• The governor cannot reject the slate of people nominated to the six-member Accountability and Implementation Board that will oversee whether school systems are following the blueprint legislation.

Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-District 22) of University Park stressed Monday’s session became designated for review only. Committee members can present their own amendments Wednesday, March 11 that could be possibly recommended for approval later in the week.

“We are not here to debate,” said Pinsky, who chairs the education committee. “We want to understand what the bill says.”

That didn’t sit well with Sen. Obie Patterson (D-District 26) of Fort Washington.

“I hate to rush through things that are so critical,” he said. “Right now, I’m not feeling it.”

Before Monday’s meeting in Annapolis, Patterson said Saturday he has a few proposals to include in the bill, such as providing “skilled development programs” for young people incarcerated for low-level offenses and scheduled for release within a year.

“These are individuals who deserve a second chance,” he said. “They are coming out and we need to help them develop some skills.”

Some of the other amendments he would like to incorporate in the legislation are providing an online mechanism for residents to follow whether certain programs receive money, establishing an endowment program for lead teachers and adequately funding career and technical education programs.

The $3.8 billion investment includes $2.9 billion from the state and $864 million from its 23 counties and Baltimore City through fiscal year 2030.

In the version approved by the House, Prince George’s County receives the most in state aid at $724 million. Baltimore City would receive $613 million and Baltimore County would get nearly $323 million.

Prince George’s also saw its previous contribution from a funding formula decrease from $361 million to $183.5 million, now the second-highest amount behind Montgomery County at $234 million.

According to the new projections, 10 counties wouldn’t have to pay more based on previous education funding from its local government or high rates of poverty: Allegany, Calvert, Carroll, Dorchester, Howard, St. Mary’s, Somerset, Washington and Worchester.

Although three years of the $3.8 billion plan have already been approved through state legislation passed last year, funding sources for the final three or four years are still being determined.

“We think it will get us through year six or seven,” said House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery County). “Future legislators, future governors will have to maintain the commitment we made to Maryland’s kids this year. We believe it is important to make that down payment.”

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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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