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Education Government & Politics

Local school systems updating the state on Blueprint plans

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reforms will add billions of dollars in state funding annually for public schools within the next decade. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

As Maryland public school leaders continue to work on the massive Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform plan, documents from local school systems that are being turned in this week must provide data to show how officials are putting it in place.

That information is based on the Blueprint’s five priorities — early childhood educationhiring and retaining high-quality and diverse teacherspreparing students for college and technical careersproviding additional resources for students in need and governance and accountability.

A few plans from the state’s 24 school systems were posted Tuesday on the website of the Blueprint’s Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB), which oversees and approves the plans.

One Blueprint requirement calls for the expansion of prekindergarten services for 3- and 4-year-old children. Part of that reform includes a “mixed-delivery system” to educate them in public schools and private child care centers.

In order to meet the Blueprint targets for the 2024-25 school year and beyond, Baltimore City Public Schools officials noted at least 1,600 students now being served in the city would need to leave their current programs and relocate to “potentially” lower-performing private providers, or more than 3,500 new private provider seats would need to become available.

“Neither scenario is realistic or practicable,” according to Baltimore City Blueprint plans. “Yet we continue to work in good faith with private providers and other stakeholders to envision a feasible mixed-delivery system.”

The city received money, according to the document, from a philanthropic organization to staff a position and serve as an intermediary and liaison to advance mixed delivery work, provide technical assistance and support private providers. The document doesn’t state how much funds were given, but the position “should be staffed” at the beginning of next school year, the city says.

In Harford County, there are plans to launch a full-day prekindergarten program inside a high school for the 2025-26 school year with additional expansion the following school year.

“This expansion is a strategic move to provide additional full-day Pre-K programs to a larger demographic of students seeking quality Pre-Kindergarten education,” according to that jurisdiction’s Blueprint plan.

School officials also noted if private providers opt not to participate in the Blueprint plan, about 121 new classrooms would be needed at an estimated cost of $122 million in new construction, or $52 million for portable classrooms.

When it comes to diversifying the teacher workforce, Frederick County school officials noted a slight increase.

According to its Blueprint documents, the number of Black teachers in the Frederick school system rose between 2021 and 2023 from 84 to 95. That represented a percentage increase from 3% to 3.2% of the workforce. During that same timeframe, the number of Latino teachers increased from 87 to 106, a percentage increase from 3.1% to 3.6%.

Teachers in the county designated as “other” rose from 77 to 92, a percentage increase from 2.7% to 3.1%.

The school system attributes the uptick in teacher diversity to a “Grow Your Own” teacher initiative.

“These progressive shifts demonstrate FCPS (Frederick County Public Schools) commitment to enhancing the diversity of its teaching staff…yielding promising results,” according to Frederick County Blueprint document. “The FCPS recruitment team will maintain oversight over hiring practices and the efficacy of Grow Your Own initiatives to further bolster a diverse teacher workforce.”

In comparison and during that same timeframe, the total number of white teachers slightly decreased by 1.3%. However, they still accounted for at least 90% of the teacher workforce, or more than 2,500 of the nearly 3,000 in the school system.

Data in Frederick shows the student population as follows:

  • White students: 23,742 (2021); 23,765 (2022); 23,640 (2023)
  • Black students: 5,800 (2021); 6,220 (2022); 6,734 (2023)
  • Latino students: 8,210 (2021); 9,022 (2022); 9,659 (2023)

School officials submitted documents in March to provide an overview of the challenges they face in carrying out the Blueprint for the next year.

Meanwhile, Interim State Superintendent Carey Wright said during a news conference Monday that she  formed a workgroup about a month ago to hear concerns about implementing the Blueprint.

Wright, who was named the public schools’ permanent leader last week, said meetings included state school board and AIB leadership.

One concern raised was the unlimited number of dual enrollment classes high school students can take at local community colleges. Local school districts are required to pay for the tuition.

“Without really sitting down with people and talking about it, and really getting to the nitty gritty, we’re not going to be able to solve all these problems,” Wright said. “It’s really a time to really be collaborative about this.”

On Tuesday, the school board voted to limit the number of dual enrollment courses as a way to relieve budget constraints for local schools. Students can take two classes at community colleges each semester.

The vote took place less than a week after the governor signed House Bill 1426 into law, which allows the AIB and state school board, in consultation with local school systems, to limit the number and types of courses high school students can take in dual enrollment classes.

This would be in effect from fiscal year 2025 through fiscal year 2027 as part of the Blueprint’s post-college and career readiness pathway.

“Dual enrollment has really expanded in the last couple of years. It’s one of the great successes of the Blueprint so far,” Phil Lasser, executive director of the superintendent’s office, said during Tuesday’s school board meeting. “Here is a way to make sure that as many students as possible still get to take advantage of those dual enrollment courses at no cost to the student or to their family and…still make the budgets work for the [school systems].”

The Blueprint board must also approve the dual enrollment policy when it convenes later this month.


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Local school systems updating the state on Blueprint plans