State commission to take ‘fresh look’ at education funding
Former University System of Mar yland chancellor tapped as chair
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.”