$4B Maryland education spending plan gets mixed reception

Maryland counties would have to kick in more money for schools under a plan that would raise education spending by $4 billion statewide by 2030.

Under the plan, the state would have to increase spending by $2.7 billion, and counties would have to raise $1.2 billion.

According to the first numbers released by the Kirwan Commission work group, Montgomery County would have to add nearly $263 million in school spending, and Prince George’s County would have to come up with an additional $361 million each year.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, a member of the commission work group, said other counties which currently fund their schools at levels above state mandates will not be asked to increase spending.

“For some it is a heavy lift, for others it is doable,” he said.

However, Glassman, a Republican who is also president of the Maryland Association of Counties, sounded a note of caution.

“Right now, a lot of counties, even counties that see this as doable, are worried that the assumptions in the formula and these estimates are fairly rosy and may not be realistic,” Glassman said.

Another member of the work group is Richard Madaleno, director of the Montgomery County Office of Management and Budget. A Democrat and former state senator, Madaleno said the spending plan is ambitious but necessary.

“The reality is while we are putting a substantial amount of money into our school systems, our international competitors are spending even more,” Madaleno said. “Whether people like it or not, it’s going to mean more funding for education to have better outcomes for students.”

Madaleno insisted that while the Kirwan Commission plan would call for a dramatic boost in education spending over 10 years, in the long run, it would prove cost-effective “because you’re not denying young people the opportunity to succeed as adults.”

Glassman emphasized that the current plan is a proposal and subject to revision as it goes to the full commission and then to lawmakers in the upcoming General Assembly session.

The Kirwan Commission is named for William E. “Brit” Kirwan, who chairs the body. The formal name of the group is the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.

Glassman pointed out that Gov. Larry Hogan, who has dubbed the commission the “Kirwan Tax Hike Commission,” will play a role in the final product, as well.

“The governor generates the budget. So, how the governor chooses to fund it or not fund it could change drastically, also,” Glassman said.

Hogan has been a vocal critic of the plan, calling it a “pie-in-the-sky,” unfunded spending proposal. On Tuesday, Hogan issued a statement saying the commission is “hellbent on spending billions more than we can afford” without having a plan that specifies where the money would come from.

According to the plan, the increases would be phased in, with new education funding formulas going into effect in fiscal year 2022.

State funding for college and career readiness programs would add $52 million by fiscal year 2021.

Other features of the plan include more money for school supplies, teacher raises, full-day kindergarten, programs for English language learners and a mental health coordinator in each school system.

The next meeting of the full commission is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 30. A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 12.

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