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Kirwan Commission Pushes Higher Standards, Teacher Pay

Rachel Baye

Audio to be added.

A long-awaited report by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education — better known as the Kirwan Commission — recommends full-day preschool for all low-income 3 and 4-year-olds, higher academic standards, more training for teachers and raising teacher pay. And it proposes creating an “independent oversight board” to ensure that the new policies, once they are approved, are properly implemented.

The report, released Thursday, recommends rolling out the changes over the next decade.

The proposals are designed to solve two main problems, said the commission’s chair, former University System of Maryland Chancellor William “Brit” Kirwan.

The first:  Maryland is “regressive” when it comes to school funding, he said. “It spends more money on schools serving high-income communities than it does on schools serving low-income communities.”

The second:  Maryland’s academic progress is on the decline, Kirwan said. Standardized test scores are middling compared with other states, and the number of high school graduates who go on to get two- or four-year degrees is decreasing.

“We are not getting the results from K-12 education that a high-performing state, a high-performing economy is going to need to continue to be successful in the future,” he said.

The commission hopes to begin addressing these problems with immediate policy changes. Legislative staff are working on a bill for the General Assembly to consider before members leave Annapolis in April.

As for the cost, the commission is asking for $325 million in the coming fiscal year, some of which has already been accounted for in Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed budget. The cost increases about 3 percent each year for the next decade, until it hits about $3.8 billion, including money from the state and local jurisdictions.

“We’ve done a rigorous benchmarking of the best-performing systems in the world and adapted their policies to Maryland,” Kirwan said. “What we are proposing will work.”

The commission still has to finalize a new formula to determine how much money schools get each year. It plans to release that by the end of the year.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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