Maryland schools could get more than $700 million in funding

A bill that is quickly advancing through Maryland’s General Assembly would build on recommendations from an education panel and add more than $700 million to the state’s public education system over the next two years.

The House of Delegates voted Thursday to approve the so-called “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,” which had just been passed by the Senate a day earlier.

Del. Alice Cain, D-Anne Arundel, called the measure “a crucial step for world-class schools for all of Maryland’s students.”

Echoing her thoughts, Del. Harry Bhandari, D-Baltimore County, said that the bill would “transform the state’s early childhood, primary and secondary education system into a world-class system.”

The House and Senate versions of the bill are not identical, which means the two chambers will need to iron out their differences before it can advance to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan.

The General Assembly is scheduled to end its 90-day session at midnight April 8.

According to Rachel Hise, an analyst with the Department of Legislative Services, the bill primarily focuses on five policy areas: Early childhood education, high quality and diverse teachers and leaders, college and career pathways, students who need additional resources and accountability.

The legislation calls for the state to spend an additional $355 million on public education in 2021 and at least $370.9 million the following year.

It follows several recommendations from the Kirwan Commission, a panel that has been studying ways to improve the state’s school system since 2016.

“What the commission has recommended is to start to incentivize school systems to move to provide full-day prekindergarten for their 4 year olds,” said Hise.

The legislation would provide funding for teacher raises and “community schools,” which offer health care and other special services for families in high-poverty neighborhoods.

It would create an Office of the Inspector General which would look into claims of waste and fraud in tax dollars that are used for education.

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