By William J. Ford
ANNAPOLIS — A funding-formula work group on Tuesday recommended spending about $4 billion to improve Maryland’s public education, but a few jurisdictions would be asked to pony up more money.
Prince George’s County would be asked to provide almost $361 million by 2030, the highest amount proposed in the state. That’s because the majority-Black jurisdiction receives some of the most state aid toward education.
“We are going to spread the burden to achieve what we want for our children,” Alvin Thornton, a member of the funding group and chair of the Prince George’s school board, said after the three-hour session. “When you get all that money coming from the state, your local share also increases. County leaders and businesses are going to have to do all [they] can do from [their] resources to fund education for our children.”
According to proposed figures, the state would provide $2.8 billion by 2030 and local counties and Baltimore City about $1.2 billion for a total for $4 billion.
Baltimore City would be asked to provide the second highest amount at $330 million and the third highest amount would come from Montgomery County at $263 million.
The figures are based on projections from the 13-member Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Funding Formula group asked to identify ways to split the cost to boost the state’s education between the state and local jurisdictions.
The group didn’t present how to pay for the increased spending, leaving that decision to state and county leaders.
Those recommendations will be passed on to the full 25-member group also known as the Kirwan Commission, named after its chair, William E. “Brit” Kirwan, the former University of Maryland System chancellor.
The education spending plan would go toward expanding pre-kindergarten, increasing teacher salaries, hiring additional mental health providers and other services and resources.
The funding formula breakdown includes:
• $32 million in fiscal years 2021 to 2024 for college and career readiness.
• $75 million for teacher supplies and technology, an equivalent of $83 per teacher in fiscal year 2021.
• Between $32 million in fiscal year 2021 to $96 million in fiscal year 2024 for full-day pre-kindergarten for 4-year-old children from low-income households.
Even when the commission makes a final approval, it will then go to the governor and Maryland General Assembly to determine whether to craft any of the education items into legislation.
Former state Sen. Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore City, a member of the funding formula group who approved the recommendations, had a few reservations on where the city would find additional money.
“I understand the need, but just given the dynamics of specifically what’s happening in the poorer jurisdictions, especially in Baltimore City, it’s dreamland to really sit here and believe that we will be even able to pay,” she said.
Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said paying for education remains a worthy need.
“Are children today able to maximize their God-given potential based on the quality of Maryland public schools? The answer to that question today, despite a lot of our great efforts, is ‘no,’” he said. “This is a moment of consequence. We believe in the power of young people across the state of Maryland. We are willing to put our time, our resources and our money to show that each and every one of them deserve the opportunity to be great. This formula provides a path to get there.”
Two members of the commission, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and David Brinkley, budget secretary for Gov. Larry Hogan, declined to vote.
“As the governor has indicated, he liked some of the elements to [education proposal],” Brinkley said to reporters after the vote. “We’re still trying to figure out exactly how do you move forward and what is it that you’re doing to deliver the biggest bang for the buck.”
Later Tuesday, Hogan himself weighed in, chiding the group as the “Kirwan Tax Hike Commission.”
“I have tremendous respect for Dr. Kirwan and have supported many of his well-meaning recommendations, some of which can be phased in over the next several years,” the governor said in an issued statement. “Unfortunately, the [commission] is hell-bent on spending billions more than we can afford and legislators are refusing to come clean about where the money is going to come from. Even after more than three years of meetings, there is still no clear plan whatsoever for how either the state, or the counties, will pay this massive price tag.”
Matt Gallagher, president of the Goldseker Foundation of Baltimore and member of the funding work group, had a simple response: “It’s not this group’s charge on how to pay for it.”
The Kirwan Commission plans to meet again Oct. 30 in Annapolis.
This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.