As Kirwan Commission Works Through Cost Estimates, Public Invited to Testify

William (Brit) Kirwan, chairman of the commission issuing recommendations on changing and funding public education in the state.

Advocacy groups and members of the public will have their moment to make recommendations on the future of education in Maryland at a public hearing Thursday.

The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, commonly called the Kirwan Commission, has come together on broad recommendations so far, but the full price tag for these changes is as-yet unknown.

In the last month, the Department of Legislative Services has begun producing cost estimates for the commission’s policy recommendations, starting with proposed changes to the states teaching corps and career and technical education programs.

The commission recommends that teacher salaries across the state be increased to a minimum of $60,000 by 2024.

The recommendation also includes set raises for teachers who earn National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification and for teachers who take on leadership roles.

The salary changes alone – without any mitigating factors considered – would cost more than $1.3 billion more in 2029, the last year of a phase-in period. The average teacher salary in the state by that year would be an estimated $93,137, according to a Department of Legislative Services analysis.

Other commission recommendations relating to teachers include increased scholarship funding for those who worked at least two years in a public school in high poverty areas or who taught STEM courses; hiring additional prekindergarten teachers; and allowing teachers more work time outside of the classroom to plan and develop strategies to help struggling students.

To hire an additional 14,685 teachers to fill the gaps created by decreased instructional time will also cost just less than $1.3 billion, according to the estimates.

The estimates don’t include potential savings identified by the commission such as lower costs for recruitment and training in light of a lower anticipated turnover rate.

The estimates come with other caveats as well.

In the assumptions, costs were not differentiated between the source of revenue: state, local or federal. Additionally, the recommendations from the work groups overlap, which could affect the estimates.

Projections related to career and technical education included costs for additional tutors in kindergarten through third grades; an increase in dual-enrollment in community college programs by high school students; and more guidance counselors for middle and high school students.

Funding formula changes still ahead

One of the more challenging tasks for the commission will be to re-write the state’s education funding formula. Whatever the commission comes up with is likely to be tinkered with or ripped to shreds by lawmakers seeking to optimize funding for their own jurisdictions – a reality not lost on commission members. However, commission members will still make recommended changes to the funding formula, with explanations of their decisions to start the conversation.

At a recent commission meeting, legislative policy analyst Rachel Hise noted that one benefit of re-writing the funding formula is to remove “add-on” calculations that are created over time to address specific issues.

During the last major re-write of state funding formulas, in the early 2000s, the Thornton Commission consolidated dozens of add-on calculations into a more streamlined formula, she said.

Hearing details

Thursday’s public hearing will be held in two parts. Representatives of statewide or local organizations can provide testimony from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., immediately after the commission’s regular meeting in the House Office Building. Members of the public can testify beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the Joint Hearing Room at the Department of Legislative Services Building.

Those wishing to testify Thursday must register by noon on the commission’s website.

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Danielle E. Gaines
Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.

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