Now that the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education has approved recommendations to revamp Maryland’s public school system, it’s in the hands of state lawmakers over the next several months to decide what to incorporate as formal legislation.
The school systems and governments in the state’s 23 counties and Baltimore City must wait on how the $4 billion proposal could affect them.
Prince George’s County is slated to contribute almost $361 million by 2030, the highest amount proposed in the state. The main reason rests with the majority-Black jurisdiction receiving some of the most state aid toward education.
Del. Alonzo Washington (D-District 22) of Greenbelt, one of eight state lawmakers who served on the commission and who voted in favor of the plan, said there’s going to be “plenty” of discussions with county and school officials.
“There’s still a lot more work to do,” he said. “For so many years, our school systems have been underfunded. This is going to help that. [But] I want to make sure our residents aren’t hardest hit with the financial responsibility of this commission’s report.”
The formal plan, known as “The Blueprint to Maryland’s Future,” seeks to incorporate dozens of recommendations by fiscal year 2030. A funding formula for the state would provide $2.8 billion by 2030 and the counties and Baltimore City about $1.2 billion for a total of $4 billion.
The goal would be to expand early childhood education, incorporate college and career readiness standards and provide additional tutoring and support for students in kindergarten through third grade.
Several Prince George’s teachers and officials have ideas on what to spend the money on. Michele Clark, a pre-kindergarten special education teacher at Kenmoor Early Childhood Center in Landover, said school renovation and expansion would provide more space for children. It would especially benefit her classroom because it’s an inclusion classroom with general education students.
State data shows Prince George’s houses the third-oldest school buildings in the state, with more than half at least 50 years old.
“Most of our schools are overcrowded, so it’s a big deal for everyone,” she said. “We talk about reducing class sizes. Well, where are going to put those extra classes? We don’t have the space … that will benefit all children.”
School board member Belinda Queen rattled off several schools in her fourth district the state money could benefit, including Central High School and Capitol Heights, William Paca and Doswell Brooks elementary schools.
Queen plans to coordinate other community leaders and possibly organize high school students to travel to Annapolis when the General Assembly session begins Jan. 8.
“We need to organize talking points and have some of us go to the sessions,” she said. “We need to keep an eye on [state lawmakers] to let them know we want more money sent back to our schools.”
Last week, the school board approved its legislative priorities that include support for the commission’s plan.
Board member K. Alexander Wallace asked to add lawmakers backing for the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities, especially since the county houses one in Bowie State.
HBCU alumni and supporters held a rally this month in Annapolis to tell Gov. Larry Hogan to end a 13-year lawsuit and provide more than the $200 million settlement offer he provided for the HBCUs.
“A lot of our educators and principals and administrators come from [HBCUs],” said Wallace, who graduated from predominately white institutions, Towson University and the University of Baltimore, both in Maryland. “We need to have a letter of support for whatever legislation comes forward in support of those HBCUs.”