State com­mis­sion to take ‘fresh look’ at ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing

For­mer Uni­ver­sity Sys­tem of Mar yland chan­cel­lor tapped as chair

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

A new com­mis­sion to eval­u­ate the way Mary­land funds ed­u­ca­tion is be­ing as­sem­bled, with for­mer Uni­ver­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land chan­cel­lor Wil­liam Kir­wan tapped to lead it this week.

The Com­mis­sion on In­no­va­tion and Ex­cel­lence in Ed­u­ca­tion was cre­ated through leg­is­la­tion last spring by the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly to study whether the cur­rent for­mu­las for fund­ing ed­u­ca­tion in Mary­land are equitable and ad­e­quate enough to pre­pare stu­dents to be col­lege and ca­reer ready.

“This bill had joint sup­port from all par­ties be­cause all of us rec­og­nize the need to take an­other

look at state ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing,” said Del. Edith Pat­ter­son (D-Charles).

The com­mis­sion will look at cur­rent ed­u­ca­tion fi­nanc­ing for­mu­las and ac­count­abil­i­ties mea­sures, the pos­si­ble ex­pan­sion of prekinder­garten and pos­si­ble ad­di­tional or al­ter­na­tive fund­ing for dual en­roll­ment, mid­dle col­lege, ap­pren­tice­ships and in­tern­ships, ac­cord­ing to the leg­is­la­tion.

“We’re al­ways in fa­vor of tak­ing a good look at how fund­ing is ap­por­tioned, and whether it’s equitable, in or­der to do what we do,” said Kim­berly Hill, su­per­in­ten­dent of Charles pub­lic schools. “I view ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing as an in­vest­ment. I know that com­mu­nity tax dol­lars are lim­ited, and there are lots and lots of needs. But in my mind, any in­vest­ment into ed­u­ca­tion is an in­vest­ment in our fu­ture, and it will save us money in the long run if we are pro­duc­ing ed­u­cated cit­i­zens.”

Pat­ter­son said the ap­point­ment of Kir­wan, who served as chancelor for 13 years be­fore re­tir­ing last year, is a good choice for lead­ing the com­mit­tee.

“I think it’s an ex­cel­lent ap­point­ment,” Pat­ter­son said. “He’s very thor­ough, he has a phe­nom­e­nal rep­u­ta­tion, and the knowl­edge he will bring to this com­mit­tee will move it for ward and he’ll bring his wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence to bear to the is­sue of fund­ing for pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.”

“The is­sue of equity is an on­go­ing prob­lem. Equity has a lot of dif­fer­ent di­men­sions to it,” Daniel Curry, su­per­in­ten­dent of Calvert pub­lic schools, said in a phone in­ter­view. “It gen­er­ally means some form of mak­ing sure all stu­dents, no mat­ter where they live in the state of Mary­land, have the same re­sources that might be viewed as nec­es­sary to have a suc­cess­ful ed­u­ca­tion.”

Curry said there are equity is­sues that teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors must ad­dress ev­ery day that deal with the stu­dents who come through the class­room doors.

“Some of the stu­dents have so­cioe­co­nomic or fam­ily is­sues that get in the way of their progress. When you talk about equity you have to talk about ever y child,” he ex­plained. “That’s a pretty big task for that com­mis­sion and we wish them well.”

The com­mis­sion is re­quired to pro­vide a pre­lim­i­nary re­port this De­cem­ber, with a fi­nal re­port and list of rec­om­men­da­tions by De­cem­ber 2017.

“As the Mary­land Com­mis­sion on In­no­va­tion and Ex­cel­lence in Ed­u­ca­tion will be re­vis­it­ing the Thor­ton ed­u­ca­tion aid for­mula crafted well over a decade ago, its work is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to all school sys­tems,” Scott Smith, su­per­in­ten­dent of St. Mary’s pub­lic schools, said in an email. “Half our fund­ing comes from the state and is driven by the Thor­ton for­mula and the per pupil al­lo­ca­tion we are pro­vided.”

The leg­is­la­tion is mod­eled af­ter the 1999 “Thorn­ton Com­mis­sion,” which made a se­ries of rec­om­men­da­tions on school fund­ing that led to the 2002 Bridge to Ex­cel­lence in Pub­lic Schools Act.

“Our school sys­tems have re­ally changed a lot since 1999,” Pat­ter­son said. “It’s crit­i­cally im­por­tant to bring in new voices, new stake­hold­ers, to look at new and in­no­va­tive ways to meet this need.”

Hill said that the time has come to take a fresh look at ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing, given the 2008 re­ces­sion.

“Pol­i­cy­mak­ers re­ally need to take a fresh look at this dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment, how do we ap­por­tion these dol­lars? Fund­ing is lim­ited, and the need is great,” Hill said. “It is com­pli­cated, and we do need folks with all dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives to come to­gether to take a look at it.”

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