Kirwan Finishes Interim Report

And other legislative updates in MSEA’s Up the Street

Commission Chair Brit Kirwan interviewed by WBAL-TV this week.


Kirwan Commission Finishes Interim Report

Last Friday afternoon, the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education voted to approve their interim report by a 21–0–2 margin (two members were absent and two abstained on the vote). The report finalizes the Commission’s policy recommendations and corresponding cost analysis, including a request for increases in state school funding by $325 million in the FY2020 budget and $750 million in the FY2021 budget.

In total, the recommendations are expected to increase education funding — including both state and local spending — by $1.5 billion in the 2020–2021 school year, $2.9 billion in the 2022–2023 school year, and eventually $3.8 billion by the 2029–2030 school year.

That funding will go towards implementing a comprehensive policy plan in the following four areas:

1. Early Childhood Education: The Commission recommendations call for making pre-kindergarten free for three- and four-year-olds at 300% of the poverty line or below, and accessible for four-year-olds from families between 300%-600% of the poverty line for a sliding scale fee.

2. Elevating Our Educator Workforce: The Commission is recommending a significant increase in teacher pay ($20,500 plus cost of living adjustments between now and 2030) and the hiring of more than 15,000 additional educators to allow for increased planning time, drive up demand for entering teaching, reduce turnover.

3. Increasing College and Career Readiness: The Commission is calling for increased individualized support for struggling students while also creating three pathways in high school for students who test as college and career ready at the end of 10th grade: advanced placement, dual enrollment, and career and technical education.

4. More Support for “At-Promise” Students: The Commission is proposing a series of supports for students who face greater challenges, including the scaling up of community schools in areas of concentrated poverty, significantly increased funding for special education, and family support services for students learning English as a second language.

The Commission is also recommending the creation of a new Oversight Board — appointed by the legislature and governor — to hold districts and state agencies accountable for implementing policy and funding decisions ultimately passed into law by the General Assembly. The interim report will be released in the coming weeks and we will share it in Up the Street at that time.

Updates on the Governor’s FY2020 Budget

Last week, we shared initial toplines from Gov. Hogan’s FY2020 budget proposal. The Department of Legislative Services (DLS) presented its fiscal briefing to lawmakers this week and we learned a few new details:

· Despite Gov. Hogan’s claims last week, it appears his budget proposal is not structurally balanced. DLS analysis shows that his proposal leaves a deficit of $62 million.

· It wasn’t the only time the governor stretched the truth in presenting his budget. He said last week that he included $200 million set aside last year for the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations. That $200 million, which can only be spent on implementing Kirwan, is not included in his proposal and still needs to be released to the legislature for them to include in the FY2020 budget.

· The budget includes $75 million above the full actuarially required contribution for the state’s pension system, as well as an additional $50 million, as required by law. This brings the funding status up from 70.9% last year to 71.6%, bringing the state closer to the “gold standard” of 80%.

· You can find the FY2020 allowance for each school district on page 69 of this report.

Hogan’s Focuses on Charters, School Construction

Gov. Hogan officially introduced two bills this week focused on boosting funding for school facilities: one focused on all public schools and one specifically aimed at charter schools.

The Building Opportunity Act (HB153/SB159) would take $125 million each year from the Question 1 (Fix the Fund) funding, starting in next year’s budget, and dedicate it to buying additional bonds to finance school construction. It also repeals changes in authority over school construction passed by the legislature last year.

Hogan’s latest charter school bill (HB156/SB172) would create a new fund overseen by the Maryland State Department of Education dedicated to building, upgrading, or fixing school facilities. If passed, the fund would get $1,600 every year per student enrolled at a charter school — approximately $35 million annually. This effectively rigs the system in favor of charter schools, letting them cut to the front of the line — at the expense of traditional public schools — for which schools get facilities upgrades. MSEA declared opposition to this flawed bill in The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday.


MSEA Briefs Education Committees on Legislative Priorities

Led by President Cheryl Bost, MSEA presented our legislative priorities to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee yesterday. We gave a similar presentation to the House Ways and Means Committee (video starts about 10 minutes in) last week. These introductions are especially important with so many new faces on both committees after the 2018 election.

You can find MSEA’s legislative priorities — from implementing Kirwan to preventing privatization to increasing educator voice in decision-making — here.

ACLU, NAACP Legal Defense Fund Signal Legal Concerns on School Funding

Two decades after legal challenges prompted the Thornton Commission and Bridge to Excellence Act, the ACLU of Maryland and NAACP Legal Defense Fund sent a letter to Gov. Hogan this week reminding him of the constitutional obligation to fully fund public schools so every student has an opportunity to meet college and career ready standards. In 2016, the state received a report — that it commissioned — finding public schools needed $2.9 billion more to meet this obligation.

The Kirwan Commission’s recommendations, if adopted through a new funding formula, would presumably bring the state back in line with these constitutional obligations. However, the state has delayed voting on a new funding formula for two years now, leading to concern about the implementation timeline and bringing the possibility of legal action closer to reality.

Maryland Center on Economic Policy Proposes Funding Sources for Kirwan Plan

Of course, lawmakers still have to determine how to generate enough revenue to pay for the Kirwan recommendations and new funding formula. To aid that conversation, the Maryland Center on Economic Policy (MDCEP) released a report this week proposing a series of measures that would bring in $1.9 billion by 2030, or the state’s anticipated share of the full $3.8 billion cost estimate.

The proposal includes income tax reform to make the system more progressive and ask top earners to pay their fair share, closing corporate loopholes, expanding the sales tax to include services in addition to goods, and increasing the tax rate on capital gains. According to MDCEP, “For the 60 percent of tax filers whose income is less than $80,000, the proposals would mean an additional tax responsibility of about $5 a month. The 95 percent of households with income under $280,000 a year would bear the burden of less than half of the total revenue increase.”