Members of the Senate Education, Energy and Environment Committee received a lesson Wednesday on Maryland’s education structure and the latest developments on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform plan.
Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), who chair’s the committee’s education subcommittee, received credit for organizing the briefing she called “governance 101” to review the state’s education structure and assess some laws passed in the last few years.
Most of the talking was done by Stacy Goodman, who works for the state Department of Legislative Services and is counsel for the EEE committee.
Goodman summarized that the state’s public school system has nearly 890,000 students, 62,593 teachers and almost 3,600 principals and assistant principals.
She highlighted responsibilities of the 14-member State Board of Education, including adopting bylaws, rules and regulations for public schools.
Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-Lower Shore) asked if there’s a policy for the state board and state superintendent to communicate with local school officials, especially when dealing with the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform plan.
“Some clarity on that would be helpful,” she said.
“It’s mostly the state superintendent, who is the employee of the state board, that’s going to be interacting with the locals,” Goodman said.
Whether State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury remains the public schools leader beyond next year isn’t set. His current contract began two years ago and expires in June 2024.
Although Choudhury informed the State Board of Education on July 1 he wants to return, the board continues to deliberate on whether to reappoint him.
A new, four-year contract is expected to be finalized at the board’s regularly scheduled September meeting.
Because it appears the board may grant him a contract extension, Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery), who chairs the committee, said he would like Choudhury and former Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett to appear for a committee briefing later this year.
That stems from some miscommunication between the Department of Education and the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB), an independent body created to oversee the Blueprint plan. Leggett serves as chair of the implementation board that’s scheduled to approve first submission of local school system Blueprint plans Thursday.
One topic to assess is whether the AIB has “plenary authority,” or nearly complete power, with the state’s education system in regard to the Blueprint plan.
“These are the kinds of things that would be nice to get out in front of early,” Feldman said. “Having them together side-by-side is something to think about.”
Former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appointed the first seven members of the implementation board in October 2021 and “granted [it] plenary authority over education in Maryland.”
The Senate committee reviewed some of the AIB’s responsibilities, including its ability to withhold 25% of state funding from local school systems that don’t achieve the goals of the Blueprint.
Sen. Ron Watson (D-Prince George’s) disapproved of that measure.
“What this explicitly is stating is that money is sufficient to solve all the issues with respect to our education system and I’m just not buying it,” he said. “It is very challenging in trying to compare an 1,800-student school system with a 130,000 system that I have in Prince George’s County. I want us as a committee to take a real, good look at this one bullet for the potential impacts going down the road.”
Goodman said the money is already allocated but wouldn’t be provided right away if a school system doesn’t adhere to the Blueprint guidelines.
“It’s kind of used as a leverage to get that entity that is not doing what they’re supposed to be doing to do what they’re supposed to do,” she said. “It will be released at some other point and time.”
Budget assessments on the Blueprint and other education items weren’t discussed in depth Wednesday, but Feldman said the goal will be to hold a joint meeting on that topic with the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.