Priority Issue: Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence & 2019 Session Actions

“The Blue Print for Maryland’s Future”

On Monday March 4, legislation entitled “The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” (Senate Bill 1030 and House Bill 1413) was introduced to implement the first stage of the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations was introduced.

MABE leadership testified in support of the legislation at the initial bill hearing on Senate Bill 1030 on March 6.  Julie Hummer, MABE’s Legislative Committee Chair, outlined the key provision’s of the legislation and MABE’s support the proposed increases in funding for prekindergarten, special education, programs for students living in areas of concentrated poverty, and state support for teacher salary increases. MABE also joined the PSSAM panel at the hearing on House Bill 1413 on March 13. 

Other organizations testifying in support included the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland, the Maryland State Education Association, Strong Schools Maryland, Maryland PTA, Advocates for Children and Youth, ACLU Maryland, and the Maryland Association of Counties.

The 29-page bill is thoroughly explained in the accompanying Fiscal and Policy Note.


2019 Legislative Updates on Kirwan Bill and Budget

On Friday, March 8, 2019, the House Appropriations Committee took bold action to approve a spending plan for FY 2020 and FY 2021 aligned with launching the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations and funding the pending Blue Print for Maryland’s Future. This budget passed the House on March 14. 

Also on March 14, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee took final action on its version of the budget, including the components of the Kirwan funding plan for FY 2020 and FY 2021.  



The Kirwan Commission

Interim Report Released

On February 14th the Kirwan Commission released its 2019 Interim Report.
The Report is a call to action for the building of a world class education system in Maryland, and includes recommendations in five major policy areas.

1. Investing in High-quality Early Childhood Education and Care: Significant expansion of full-day pre-school, to be free for all low-income three- and four-year-olds, so that all children have the opportunity to begin kindergarten ready to learn;

2. Elevating Teachers and School Leaders: Raising the standards and status of the teaching profession, including a performance-based career ladder and salaries comparable to other fields with similar education requirements;

3. Creating a World-class Instructional System: An internationally benchmarked curriculum that enables most students to achieve “college- and career-ready” status by the end of tenth grade and then pursue pathways that include early college, Advanced Placement courses, and/or a rigorous technical education leading to industry-recognized credentials and high-paying jobs;

4. Providing More Support to Students Who Need It the Most: Broad and sustained new support for schools serving high concentrations of students living in poverty, with before-and after-school and summer academic programs and student access to needed health and social services, and increased support for English learner and special education students; and

5. Ensuring Excellence for All: An accountability-oversight board that has the authority to ensure that the Commission’s recommendations are successfully implemented and produce the desired results.

MABE did submit a 2-page statement to the Commission emphasizing the association’s strong support for the recommendations overall, but strong opposition to key recommendations in the governance and accountability section of the Report.

“MABE has participated fully in the Commission’s work and supports its focus on significantly increasing the State’s investment in a high performing, innovative statewide system of public schools. MABE supports advancing the goal of improving Maryland schools to ensure our students are equally as prepared as students educated in the world’s highest performing school systems. MABE strongly supports the Commission’s
recommendations requiring equitable access to an excellent education for all students in all twenty-four school systems. However, MABE objects to specific recommendations regarding the governance, authority and accountability of local school systems, found in both the Governance and Accountability and the College and Career Ready Pathways policy areas.”

“MABE strongly opposes the adoption of the recommendation for a new governance and compliance body to oversee implementation of the Commission’s recommendations and subsequent legislation. Such an independent oversight body is neither necessary nor appropriate to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate implementation of the Commission’s
recommendations as these functions are already are within the purview of the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and the State Board.”

MABE, and all of our partners in advocating for public education and students support action this session on the pending FY 2020 State Budget. This immediate action is needed to allow school systems to begin work in the upcoming 2019-2020 school year. Also needed this session is a clear
mandate for significant funding increases in the Governor’s FY 2021 State Budget.

The good news is that there are two significant funding sources to launch Kirwan in the FY 2020 budget. A $200 million Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education Fund was created last year, and is fully available. In addition, $125 million in casino revenue is now available,
thanks to the overwhelming passage of Question 1 on the 2018 ballot to convert the entire Education Trust Fund (ETF) to new, increased funding to support Kirwan Commission initiatives.

However, Governor Hogan’s proposed State Budget does not allocate any of the $200 million Kirwan fund toward FY 2020 spending, and would invest only $24 million of the $125 million in ETF funds in Kirwan recommended areas. Instead, $45 million would be used to launch a new school construction program administered by the Maryland Stadium Authority, a program intended to receive $125 million per year in ETF money beginning next year.

All of this work, including more than $200 million in the FY 2020 State budget, and passing legislation requiring a fully-fledged Kirwan launch in the FY 2021 State budget, can and should move forward even though the Commission must re-convene later this year.

The Report addresses its unfinished work, as follows:

“One piece of work remains for the Commission and that is to recommend a fair distribution of the costs of the Commission’s recommendations between the State and its 24 local jurisdictions. Leaders of the General Assembly have said the Legislature cannot address both the scope of the policy changes recommended by the Commission and the distribution of costs within a single 90-day session. So they have asked the Commission to
continue its work and make funding recommendations in fall 2019, which it will do.”

MABE looks forward to a 2019 session of vigorous advocacy for budget and policy actions consistent with significant and long-overdue increases in State funding to benefit all students, even more resources for students and schools with the highest needs in areas such as special education, English
language learners, and concentrated poverty, and a career ladder system that will lead to the sustained recruiting and retaining of the best educators in the nation.

December 2018 Status Updates

The Commission is poised to issue a final report featuring major policy and funding recommendations centered on five major policy areas. Final drafts of Working Group & Commission recommendations and Costing Out Reports (Updated as of Dec. 6, 2018):

MABE Testifies Before the Kirwan Commission 

On November 29, 2018, MABE President Tolbert Rowe and several other members of MABE’s Board of Directors provided testimony and remarks before the Kirwan Commission. President Rowe’s remarks highlighted MABE’s positions on each of the five major policy areas and was accompanied by 8 pages of written testimony.

MABE Legislative Committee Chair Julie Hummer provided testimony focused on the need for increased state funding for high quality early education opportunities for 3 and 4 year old students, and Michael Garman, chair of MABE’s Resolution’s Committee, delivered remarks on MABE’s support for local board governance and the continued oversight role of the State Board and MSDE as opposed to a new oversight body. In addition, Tracy McGuire, President of the Calvert County Board of Education, testified in support of local board decision-making in allocating resources to best serve students and regarding employee contract negotiations.

2018 Session Highlight – Kirwan Recommended Legislation Passed

Legislation developed by the Kirwan Commission passed in 2018 (House Bill 1415).  This bill extends the deadline for the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education to complete its work by one year. It also establishes or alters several programs and mandates funding for them beginning in FY 2019.

House Bill 1415 and Senate Bill 1092 were introduced to enact several policy initiatives aligned with the work of the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. The House has passed HB 1415 with several amendments, none of which are problematic or alter MABE’s position in support of the bill. A detailed summary is provided in the bill’s fiscal and policy note.

The bill establishes new programs and makes funding recommendations for the following:

• New Teacher Recruitment Program
• K-8 Literacy Grant Program
• Mandated Level Funding for Prekindergarten Grant Programs
• Concentration of Poverty Grants
• Teaching Fellows for Maryland Scholarship Program
• Career and Technical Education Grant Program
• Special Education Study Extension
• Kirwan Commission Extension

Additional information: On February 15, the Kirwan Commission released its Preliminary Report which includes several major policy recommendations of the Commission.

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 4 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.