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Education

Draft plan to implement Maryland’s 10-year education reform effort expected to be released soon

School desk with school accessory and yellow backpack
Photo by hd3dsh/stock.adobe.com.

A draft to implement Maryland’s multi-billion education reform plan that lawmakers approved last year is scheduled for release next month.

The comprehensive reforms focus on five subject areas, or pillars: expanding early childhood education, creating a diverse workforce with high-quality teachers, improving college and career readiness, providing additional resources for some students and maintaining accountability.

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board continues to hold work sessions with feedback from education experts, school officials and early childhood providers.

This week, the board discussed one proposal that seeks funding to ensure that 3- and 4-year-old children with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness and those from homes where English isn’t the primary language receive free, full-day prekindergarten.

The current funding formula didn’t include some of these children whose families may not meet the state’s low-income requirements.

Rachel Hise, the group’s executive director and a long-time legislative policy analyst, said money to expand free pre-K could be applied through a budget maneuver this fiscal year, or could take effect the following year.

The adjustment would require a statutory change in the law, which the new General Assembly could undertake when it convenes in January.

“Those are some details that will need to be worked out,” she said.

A few programs scheduled to start within the already-approved Blueprint plans include an allocation of $2.5 million toward a “Teacher Collaborate Grant Program;” expansion and transfer of half-day prekindergarten slots to full-day slots; and high-quality teacher professional development.

The board assessed dozens of other early childhood and teacher recommendations laid out in colorful charts including:

  • School districts may lease commercial space to house prekindergarten students if publicly owned space isn’t available.
  • The design and implementation of a centralized prekindergarten enrollment system.
  • A Department of Education “coordinated and equitable” plan to establish early childhood centers in communities with limited access or where centers aren’t located.
  • A statewide clearinghouse with real-time data from school districts on open positions.
  • Publicization of teacher quality and diversity programs at historically Black colleges and universities.
  • Support and development for paraprofessionals to become certified teachers.

The board will hold another work session Tuesday to focus on college and career readiness and assess additional resources for some students.

Two more meetings are scheduled Sept. 29 and Oct. 13. A few days after the October session, a draft implementation plan is expected to be released.

A public hearing is planned in November after the general election. A final comprehensive plan would be approved by the Blueprint implementation board by Dec. 1.

Board Chair and former Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett gave a reminder to those in attendance Thursday and who will participate in future meetings how they will be structured.

“We are not relitigating the Blueprint. We have gone through an exhaustive, legislative process that took years,” he said. “This is not to suggest that we are not open to changes or adjustments, but they would have to be very strong and something we would have to look at very seriously. The idea now is how we can move forward with the Blueprint that has been adopted by the General Assembly.”