Education Funding Workgroup Charts Course for Setting Formulas

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A workgroup that will propose new education funding formulas should wrap up work by the send of September, the panel’s chair announced Thursday.

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Funding Formula Workgroup met for the first time in Annapolis on Thursday afternoon.

The 13-person panel, chaired by former University System of Maryland chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan, is charged with recommending a new funding formula to guide how a proposed injection of billions of dollars into Maryland K-12 schools should be divvied up between state and local governments. Right now, the foundation formula that guides spending at the state and local level includes “add-on” calculations to accommodate changes in law since the formula was last updated.

Those add-ons, plus other items, are expected to be rolled into a new foundation formula. The panel will also decide whether to change the state’s processes for calculating factors like wealth, overall enrollment and equity funding.

In a letter to the workgroup, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said they “fully expect” that the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education will vote on a proposal by the end of 2019, allowing lawmakers to pass a new formula into law during the 2020 legislative session.

Last fall, legislative leaders were caught off-guard when the full Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, which is also chaired by Kirwan, announced it would not complete all its work before the 2019 General Assembly session. Nevertheless, lawmakers passed funding bills that were seen as a down payment for the Kirwan Commission’s proposed reforms, which include raising academic standards to match those in the top-performing countries, creating new policies to attract highly qualified teachers, building career and technical education programs, and providing additional resources to low-income and special needs children.

The far-reaching reforms hit an annual estimated cost of $3.8 billion in additional education funding after a 10-year phase-in. Kirwan said he’s heard some concern that the commission’s initial funding plan was front-loaded and required a lot of money fast, so the workgroup will consider whether to reorder implementation of the recommendations.

On Thursday, the workgroup met in Annapolis for a largely organizational meeting that included presentations about Maryland’s education funding structure.

The workgroup’s next meeting is tentatively scheduled for late July. Kirwan said Thursday that he hopes the workgroup can vote on a final formula recommendation by Sept. 26.

The workgroup will hold a public hearing before that final vote.

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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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