March 22, 2018

Priority Issue: Funding Commission on Innovation & Excellence

The “Kirwan” Commission

Preliminary Report January 2018

In 2016 the General Assembly passed House Bill 999 and Senate Bill 905 to create the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. This bill was one of MABE’s top legislative priorities. MABE greatly appreciates the lead sponsorship of Delegate Anne Kaiser and Senator Nancy King and the broad support in the General Assembly for the pursuit of continuous improvements in the state’s approach to adequately and equitably funding Maryland’s outstanding public schools. MABE’s representative on the Kirwan Commission is MABE’s past president Joy Schaefer. In addition, MABE took the initiative to form its own Committee on School Funding Adequacy which in September of 2016 released a report “Priorities and Perspectives on the Future of Public School Funding in Maryland(Executive Summary) to provide background information, in-depth analysis, and an overview of local board perspectives on the funding adequacy study.

On September 29, 2016 the “Kirwan” Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its first meeting. Commission Chair, William E. “Brit” Kirwan, opened the meeting by emphasizing the rare opportunity to be on such a commission, and that although the charge is very broad, the task at hand is essentially to make recommendations on how to make our schools better and that we owe it to students to develop a system that is as good as the best in the world.

On September 13, 2017, MABE wrote to the Commission to voice support for meaningful improvements to Maryland’s public school finance system, including substantial funding increases aligned with accountability for successful academic outcomes for all students. MABE Letter (September 13, 2017)

The Commission has received comprehensive presentations on the Funding Adequacy reports produced by APA Consulting and adopted a framework for its work based on the National Center on Education and the Economy’s (NCEE) “Nine Building Blocks of a World Class Education System.” All Commission meeting agendas and meeting materials are available on the General Assembly’s website. The APA Funding Adequacy Report is also available: Executive Summary; Adequacy Study: Final Report (11/30/2016 – Prepared by APA Consulting for MSDE)

Update (as of 12/27/2017)

The Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education has been meeting since the fall of 2016 to develop recommendations for updating the state’s education funding formulas. The Thornton Bridge to Excellence formulas were adopted in 2002, and long overdue for updates to not only increase the base per pupil amount for all students but also address funding needs for expanded prekindergarten, career and technical education, special education services, and community schools with wrap-around services.

The Commission was also to review the findings of a comprehensive funding study, conducted by Augenblick, Palaich & Associates (APA) in 2015-2016 at the cost of over $1 million, which recommended significant reforms and increases and in state and local school funding in its Final Report of the Study of Adequacy of Funding for Education in Maryland. MABE played a leading role as a member of the MSDE Stakeholder Group which monitored and provided input to the adequacy studies conducted by consultants Augenblick, Palaich and Associates (APA). The MSDE webpage for the Adequacy Study and Stakeholder Group contains all of the consultants’ reports and stakeholder group meeting materials.

The Commission has not considered legislative recommendations aligned with the final APA study, and instead has organized its work around the framework and advice of another consultant, the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). NCEE’s focus is on reforms needed to make Maryland an international leader in high quality public education based on comparisons with Finland, Switzerland, Singapore, Shanghai, Ontario and Massachusetts.

The Kirwan Commission is finalizing its preliminary recommendations organized under the following 9 Building Blocks of a World-Class State Education System; the framework developed by NCEE.

  1. Provide strong supports for children and their families before students arrive at school
  2. Provide more resources for at-risk students than for others
  3. Develop world-class, highly coherent instructional systems
  4. Create clear gateways for students through the system, set to global standards, with no dead ends
  5. Assure an abundant supply of highly qualified teachers
  6. Redesign schools to be places in which teachers will be treated as professionals, with incentives and support to continuously improve their professional practice and the performance of their students
  7. Create an effective system of career and technical education and training
  8. Create a leadership development system that develops leaders at all levels to manage such systems effectively
  9. Institute a governance system that has the authority and legitimacy to develop coherent, powerful policies and is capable of implementing them at scale

The Commission met on Dec. 20, 2017 to finalize the policy recommendations to be included in its preliminary report. A final report, with specific funding recommendations aligned with the Commission’s policy recommendations (with the costing-out study to be done by APA), is not due until later in 2018.

All of the Kirwan Commission’s draft recommendations are available on the Commission’s webpage. Examples of key recommendations to be included in the preliminary report, organized under each of NCEE’s 9 Building Blocks, include:

1. Early Learning: Universal access to public and private provided prekindergarten for all four year olds and low-income three year olds, with private providers held to high standards, and tuition allowed in public and private schools/child care centers on a sliding income scale.

2. Funding: Increase per pupil base and additional per pupil weights for special education, English Learners, and low-income students. Create a new weight for concentration of poverty. Weighted funding should follow at-risk students to their school. Develop funding recommendations following the 2018 legislative session based on a new cost analysis by Augenblick, Palaich and Associates (APA) aligned with the Commission’s final recommendations.

3 and 4. Standards and Pathways: Assess all incoming kindergarteners and create educational plans for each child. Move the grade year by which students are expected to acquire levels of proficiency in mathematics, science, and English literacy needed for success on adopted Maryland assessments (e.g., a score of 4 or 5 on the PARCC assessment) in the first year of community college to the end of 10th grade. Requiring all Maryland high school students who are on track for college and career readiness by the end of 10th grade to be offered rigorous pathways toward college and careers through AP, IB and other college prep programs and CTE programs leading to industry certification. Requiring all Maryland community colleges to enroll students that achieve the 10th grade standard in initial credit-bearing coursework without remediation (with a higher standard for four-year colleges).

5. Teacher Supply: Provide strong financial incentives to students with strong records of academic achievement in high school to choose a career in teaching. Use teacher education program approval authority to ensure that the content of these programs meets international standards of subject matter as well as mastery of the craft of teaching. More rigorously assess teacher preparation programs based primarily on the success of a program’s graduates in the classroom and not on input measures such as the Praxis exam. Create a seed grant program for school districts to partner with university teacher preparation programs.

6. Teaching Profession: In order to recognize effective teachers and incentivize them to stay in the classroom, Maryland must build a statewide career ladder system modeled on the most effective such systems in the US and the world. Advancement up the ladder should be based on the acquisition of specified knowledge and skills, rigorous evidence of success as a classroom teacher and/or additional responsibilities commensurate with the additional compensation. While the career ladder will have a statewide framework, local school systems would negotiate the compensation and responsibilities at each step, as well as any additional ladder steps or requirements added to the statewide framework, through local negotiations. Phase–in a reduction of the maximum time, currently 70 to 80%, that teachers teach in order to give teachers more time to work as professionals in collaboration, as is the case for teachers in countries with high performing systems, to improve the curriculum, instructional delivery, and tutor students with special needs.

7. Career & Technology Education: Remove CTE from MSDE and LEA purview. Create 2 independent groups to A. revamp Maryland’s CTE program to align with Switzerland and Singapore; and B. hold school systems accountable for implementing the new CTE program requirements.

8. Leadership: The career ladder system should include school leaders. Train every currently serving superintendent, senior central office official, and principal in the State to give them the vision, motivation, skills and knowledge they will need to implement the recommendations made in this report.

9. Governance: To make sure that the Commission’s recommendations are implemented as intended, Maryland should establish an “independent entity” to guide and direct the implementation. The new entity would develop a detailed plan for implementation of the Commission’s report, with goals, milestones and measurable interim objectives for all relevant government agencies and departments, including schools. This entity would have the authority to withhold increases in State education aid if a school system has not provided an implementation plan that is approved by the independent entity or is not making demonstrable progress in implementing the Commission’s recommendations in accordance with its approved plan.

Following a meeting on January 8, 2018, these recommendations, and many more (see the draft recommendations), will be finalized and included in a forthcoming preliminary report. Several workgroups comprised of Commission members will then meet during the legislative session to further refine recommendations for the final report. The final report will feature the actual cost estimates for the Commission’s recommendations and its priorities for implementing the policy and funding recommendations. The bulk of the legislation based on the Commission’s work is not expected until 2019. Nonetheless, it is likely that one or more bills will be introduced in 2018 to advance certain portions of the Commission’s work.

MABE looks forward to advocating vigorously in the 2018 session and beyond for sound policy reforms and the long-overdue increases in state funding needed to ensure excellence with equity in public education for all of our more than 870,000 students.

School Funding Facts

  • In FY 2015, Maryland spent more than $5.8 billion on public school funding, while the 23 counties and Baltimore City contributed another $5.7 billion, totaling $11.5 billion in State and local funding for prekindergarten through grade 12.
  • Prekindergarten students are not counted as enrolled students for purposes of state and local per pupil funding formulas.
  • Providing high quality PreK in public schools and private settings, with state, local and family payments based on need, would cost between $270 million and $439 million. ($439M to cover 80% of all 4 year olds: $226M State; $85M local, and $128M family.)
  • The average return on investment (ROI) of serving four year olds in high-quality prekindergarten programs is $5.54 for each $1 invested.


For more information, contact MABE’s Director of Governmental Relations, John R. Woolums, Esq., at or 410-841-5414.