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Education Government & Politics

Blueprint officials tout progress as lawmakers weigh funding request

Isiah “Ike” Leggett, right, chair of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board, testifies Feb. 16, 2024, before the Senate Budget and Taxation’s Education, Business and Administration subcommittee. Photo by William J. Ford.

Even as lawmakers scramble during fiscally tight times to maximize funding for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, legislative analysts are recommending temporarily withholding $150,000 from the Moore administration’s funding recommendation.

A Maryland Senate subcommittee held a budget hearing Friday to review updates on the state’s education reform plan. A House subcommittee will follow suit on Monday.

At Friday’s hearing, the top two officials of the state entity that helps oversee the Blueprint’s implementation in Maryland’s 24 school systems and state agencies, Rachel Hise and former Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett, provided updates to senators on one of the state’s biggest investments.

Leggett, chair of the Blueprint Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB), came armed with data to present before the Senate Budget and Taxation Subcommittee on Education, Business and Administration, designed to show progress on how the program is advancing the state’s goals.

The number of teachers who pursued National Board Certification in Maryland, a critical component of the Blueprint plan, increased from 711 in fiscal year 2022 to 2,372 the following year.

The number of students who participated in the state’s Apprenticeship and Training Program increased from 124 in the 2021-22 school year to 507 the following year.

Nearly 100 community schools, which provide services such as before- or after-school tutoring and English language courses, opened in fiscal year 2024. The expansion of those schools throughout the state is one of the top priorities of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.

The legislature approved the Blueprint plan in 2020, but former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed it. Lawmakers overrode Hogan’s veto the following year.

In 2022, the board began with a limited budget and staff and needed to organize advisory committees for key policy. The board adopted a final version of the multi-billion-dollar plan in December of that year.

“You see the amount of work that we have accomplished in a relatively short period of time,” Leggett said Friday. “I’m very pleased with where we are, [but] we have some work ahead of us.”

Part of the work comes from a recommendation by the state Department of Legislative Services that the legislature withhold $150,000 until the AIB submits a formal report by Sept. 1. Budget analysts suggested that the funding be temporarily withheld because there had been delays with certain administrative tasks on the board.

The legislative analysts said the report must include a timeline on data collection and performance measures with the state Department of Education, make recommendations for revising a teacher preparation program, and demonstrate “progress on procuring a vendor to complete the independent evaluation of Blueprint implementation and outcomes.”

The majority of that work is already in progress, Hise, the AIB executive director, told lawmakers. After the hearing, she said a report may be submitted by July 1.

Hise and Leggett also told the Senate subcommittee that the AIB board approved $2 million on Thursday to begin the second phase of a technical assistance grant program for local system systems and an existing Career Technical and Education Committee.

The money would allow school officials and the committee to focus on specific topics or “areas of challenge” to strengthen their Blueprint plans.

Some of the money allocated last fiscal year was for grants to hire “strategic facilitators,” who are selected by local school officials and the committee, to assist in developing and implementing their Blueprint plans.

Only two of the 24 school systems chose not to apply: Frederick and Worcester counties.

Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery), chair of the Senate subcommittee, praised the AIB for its work, especially in a short timeframe.

“It’s hard for people to understand just how much work there is left to do,” she said. “There’s a real misunderstanding about that. It just doesn’t happen overnight, but I think you’re doing great.”

The House Appropriations’ Education and Development subcommittee is scheduled to hold a budget hearing Monday afternoon that includes a review of the Blueprint.


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Blueprint officials tout progress as lawmakers weigh funding request