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Hogan Thumps for Accountability in Final Kirwan Commission Recommendations

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., pictured with Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford, is pressing for education accountability measures in the final Kirwan Commission package. Photo by Josh Kurtz

As a commission charged with re-thinking Maryland’s education policies prepares for a lengthy public hearing, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) is advocating for strong accountability measures once again.

Hogan sent a letter to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) Tuesday asking that the presiding officers ensure that the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education’s final recommendations include “strong academic and administrative accountability measures.”

The panel, commonly called the Kirwan Commission, has been meeting for two years to recommend changes to state funding and an expansive list of policies including early childhood and career-focused education programs, teacher salaries and accountability measures.

Neither Miller nor Busch sits on the commission; the legislative leaders also do not formally control the final contents of the report, which are being drafted and edited by commission subgroups. The Senate president’s office said Tuesday it did not have comment on the letter and no one from the speaker’s office was immediately available to discuss it.

The letter did not include specific recommendations Hogan would like to see in the commission’s report but outlined the policies he has championed in the past and has promised to promote in the future.

Hogan signed the commission’s first batch of preliminary recommendations included in a 2018 General Assembly bill but lamented the Legislature’s failure to pass bills outlining his own educational priorities.

Hogan introduced a bill last year that would have created an inspector general position for education with the power to issue subpoenas and hold hearings, but the measure was not voted out of committee.

In September, Hogan established through executive order an Office of Education Accountability that is responsible for analyzing, coordinating and providing recommendations on procurement, child abuse, neglect, safety, grading, graduation requirements, assessments, educational facilities and budgets. The office is also accepting anonymous tips about violations in schools and is developing criteria for investigating accusations of fraud, abuse, waste and unethical conduct in the state’s 24 school districts.

Hogan plans to reintroduce the inspector general legislation in January.

The Kirwan Commission’s work continues as Maryland school funding is set to see a dramatic increase after voters approved a “lockbox” proposal that will phase-in a plan to dedicate casino gambling revenue to supplementary education funding.

“But providing record funding for our schools isn’t enough. With this historic investment of state taxpayer money our citizens, parents, teachers, and especially our students have the right to expect and deserve more accountability, better local management, and the strongest oversight possible,” Hogan wrote to the legislative leaders.

The governor’s letter cited ethical lapses in some state school systems including criminal convictions, grading irregularities and procurement problems.

Drafts of the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations include plans for an independent oversight body that would coordinate, monitor, and evaluate implementation of the commission’s recommendations. The oversight panel would disband at the end of an implementation period.

If the recommendation is included in a final report, the oversight board would be chosen by the governor, speaker and Senate president, and would have the authority to require other state agencies and local school systems to respond to requests for information, changes to policies or implementation plans, and recommendations to withhold funding.

The commission will hold a public hearing in Annapolis on Thursday, with time set aside for organized groups to testify at 3 p.m. and members of the public to testify beginning at 5:30 p.m. Sign-up details are on the commission’s web page.

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Hogan Thumps for Accountability in Final Kirwan Commission Recommendations