Inside MSEA with David Helfman

MSEA’s executive director reflects on his time on the Kirwan Commission

MSEA Executive Director David Helfman

After more than three years of service on the Kirwan Commission, filled with several dozen full commission and work group meetings, public hearings, and hours of preparation and talking with MSEA members and leaders about commission proposals, I recently cast my final vote as a commission member.

In a 19–3 vote, the Kirwan Commission approved its final funding recommendations and moved them, along with our policy recommendations, to the General Assembly. Now the hard work of lobbying for passage of implementing legislation with veto-proof majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate begins!

I’m particularly proud of the following components of the recommendations and funding formula:

• All winners. No losers. Every school system will receive funding increases over the 10-year phase-in period.

• Proposals to raise teacher salaries and boost minimum salaries will increase our ability to attract and retain teachers at a time when fewer and fewer high schoolers have been enrolling in education programs.

• A new concentrated poverty grant designed to fund community schools and additional resources for the lowest-wealth schools. For most counties this grant will be fully funded by the state, with no additional county funding required.

• A strengthened local maintenance of effort component, with counties responsible for funding a portion of the English language learners, special education, and compensatory education grants.

From pre-k to career technical program expansion, there is so much more to like.

Chairman Kirwan understood the importance of each recommendation and resisted efforts to strip individual components from the package. Our vote puts us on the verge of making an enormous difference for our schools and students. Now our efforts turn to the General Assembly, and finally to the work on the ground of implementing improvements, learning what works, and adjusting what doesn’t.

I was honored to represent MSEA on the Kirwan Commission — it has been the highlight of my professional career.