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Opinion: Business Leaders Want Kirwan Plan Fully Funded

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As business leaders, we strongly support the Kirwan Commission legislation that would dramatically improve education practice, funding and accountability in

As business people, we are often measured by our bottom-line-results. Today the results of current practice, funding and accountability in Maryland fall far short of
meeting the demands for our state’s continued success. Those results impede economic productivity while sending large numbers of fellow citizens into prisons and forcing reliance on costly public assistance like Medicaid.

The cost of maintaining the status quo is much too high in terms of financial impact, quality of life and fairness. Maryland must change now, not sometime in the future.

Passing and funding The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is a no-brainer. The greatest challenge we face in our businesses is finding enough qualified people to fill open positions. The lack of a qualified workforce is a material constraint on growth and investment and therefore, on the state’s economy. As the nation and Maryland’s population continues to age, this problem will only worsen.

The Blueprint empowers our young people to be career or college ready by the time they graduate, which results in more jobs, better jobs, and higher pay. When citizens have better, higher paying jobs, they pay more taxes and contribute to community stability, which improves the quality of life for Maryland residents and allows businesses to flourish, in turn creating more opportunity. It is all a connected cycle. And right now, that cycle is not working because we do not have the funding, policies and
accountability for student success necessary to have world-class schools.

The evidence tells us that the Blueprint will allow up to 12% of the parents with 3- and 4-year-olds in prekindergarten to return to work, resulting in more revenue to help offset Kirwan costs. That is about 10,000 new employees in the first 10 years alone. In addition, the evidence shows that the failures of our education system have
contributed to cycles of poverty and crime.

The last legislative study of incarcerated individuals found that we pay $475 million annually to house 12,000 high school dropouts. Re-dedicating our resources to interrupting those cycles will save costs and quite literally save lives.

Some question whether we can afford Kirwan, to which we reply: why would we pass up the opportunity to make such a fruitful investment in our state’s future? The evidence shows that our current situation carries substantial costs which hurt our communities and degrade our economy. Maryland businesses can attest that we will greatly benefit from these reforms as we have been saddled with the incredible costs of an underprepared and undereducated workforce. We know that without investment, an enterprise cannot thrive.

Far from a risky investment, The Blueprint, in fact, is one of the safest investments we can make in our state’s future.
With increased investment comes increased accountability, which we welcome. We support a strong accountability system. The Blueprint asks for unprecedented
changes in education practice from our educators. If we are going to commit to long-term systemic change, all parties necessary to implement those changes must be
accountable to produce the targeted results.

The proposed legislation which establishes a new Oversight Board with plenary jurisdiction over implementation
goes far beyond anything previously imagined for accountability in Maryland.

We have been encouraged to see such enthusiasm for this bill from students, parents, teachers, business leaders and lawmakers. It will take a strong coalition to
see this through and we are confident that our legislative leaders who understand the stakes can assemble a package of current, new and anticipated revenue sources
that will get the job done. After all, study after study says when investments in education are made, it leads to economic growth.

As with any business plan, all the elements of The Blueprint work in tandem to fix what’s wrong and put us on the path to success. That is why it is critical that we
maintain the integrity of the bill, in full. If we only expand pre-kindergarten or only create vocational training opportunities we will have significantly reduced the
likelihood of achieving the kind of change and success that our state so badly needs.

Taken as a whole the investment makes The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future a law that will lift up a generation and define who we are as Marylanders. Passing and funding the law in full is the only way to get us there.

Marylanders are ready to stand up and fight for the future our children deserve. We ask our lawmakers to stand beside them. Fully fund and implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

— James DeGraffenreidt, Former chairman and CEO, WGL Holdings and Washington Gas Light Co.
— Marilynn Duker, CEO Brightview Senior Living
— Donald Manekin, Founder, Seawall Development
— William Moore, President, Southway Builders, Inc
— Arnold Richman, Chairman Brightview Senior Living


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Opinion: Business Leaders Want Kirwan Plan Fully Funded