Panel wants to in­crease fund­ing for state schools by 30 per­cent

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY BRIAN WITTE

AN­NAPO­LIS | A state com­mis­sion says Mary­land should in­crease K-12 ed­u­ca­tion spend­ing by an es­ti­mated $4.4 bil­lion per year about a decade from now, or about 30 per­cent more than the cur­rent level, un­der pre­lim­i­nary cost es­ti­mates re­leased Thurs­day.

The panel known as the Kir­wan Com­mis­sion could make re­vi­sions be­fore it sends a fi­nal re­port to the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly by the end of the year or be­fore law­mak­ers gather for their an­nual 90-day ses­sion Jan. 9.

The rec­om­mended in­creases, which in­clude a com­bi­na­tion of state and lo­cal money, would be­gin in the next fis­cal year, when they would to­tal about $807 mil­lion. They would rise each year for a decade. For ex­am­ple, the to­tal es­ti­mated amount in­creases to about $1.9 bil­lion in fis­cal 2021, about $2.8 bil­lion in fis­cal 2022 and about $3.3 bil­lion in fis­cal 2023. It first goes over $4 bil­lion in fis­cal 2027.

The in­creases are in four main ar­eas. One is for early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion, such as pre-K pro­grams, in­clud­ing full­day prekinder­garten at no cost for 4-yearolds and 3-year-olds from fam­i­lies with in­comes up to 300 per­cent of the fed­eral poverty level. The other ar­eas in­clude el­e­ments such as teacher pay, col­lege and ca­reer readi­ness, and ad­di­tional re­sources for at-risk stu­dents.

The over­all es­ti­mates of new costs in­clude about $1.6 bil­lion in sav­ings from over­laps.

Law­mak­ers will be con­sid­er­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions in the leg­isla­tive ses­sion that be­gins in Jan­uary.

The com­mis­sion, which has 25 mem­bers, met most of the day in An­napo­lis, and mem­bers had a broad range of re­ac­tions to the amounts of money dis­cussed.

Com­mis­sioner Kal­man Het­tle­man de­scribed the in­creases as mod­est, es­pe­cially in the first sev­eral years.

“That is a very small down pay­ment to do the kind of work that we want to do to de­velop ad­e­quacy and nar­row achieve­ment gaps,” Mr. Het­tle­man said. “That is a very small amount of money for the near-term years to get about the work that needs to be done.”

For­mer Univer­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land Chan­cel­lor Wil­liam “Brit” Kir­wan de­scribed it as a large in­crease.

“Pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions play out over 10 years, and that leads to a 30 per­cent in­crease, un­in­flated, over what we’re cur­rently spend­ing, which is a large in­crease by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion,” Mr. Kir­wan said.

Oth­ers noted the state is fac­ing struc­tural deficit in fu­ture years, be­cause pro­jected state ex­penses ex­ceed pro­jected revenue.

“It’s fas­ci­nat­ing sit­ting here to lis­ten to this, be­cause we also have se­ri­ous asks when it comes to health and health care, trans­porta­tion — though they have a sep­a­rate pool of money, but we’re now go­ing into the gen­eral fund to dip into that, and pub­lic safety, your higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, all of these come into the mix, so that’s where we are,” said David Brink­ley, a com­mis­sion mem­ber who also is Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s bud­get sec­re­tary.

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