Kirwan Commission namesake testifies on $4 billion Maryland education plan

Dr. William “Brit” Kirwan, the former President of the University of Maryland and Chancellor Emeritus of the University System of Maryland, made an impassioned pitch for the ambitious education reforms made in the commission report bearing his name.

On Tuesday, Kirwan sat before members of the Maryland Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and told them that currently, federally mandated tests put Maryland in the middle of the pack of school systems in the U.S.

By one metric, the state is 29th, Kirwan said. “That doesn’t look like one of the best school systems in the nation.”

The hearing was on the same day that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan gave a few highlights of his $47.9 billion budget for fiscal year 2021.

Hogan calls his spending plan an “accountability budget,” and he has been critical of Democratic lawmakers who back the Kirwan Commission education spending plan.

The plan by the Kirwan Commission would add $4 billion over and above current annual education spending when fully phased in. Kirwan told lawmakers, “We can’t lose sight of the fact that right now, fewer than 40% of our kids are finishing school able to read at the 10th grade [level] and pass an Algebra 1 assessment.”

Some lawmakers, including those who support the intent of the Kirwan Commission’s plan — such as Democratic Del. Julian Ivey, whose district is in Prince George’s County — have expressed concern about how much the counties would have to contribute toward the proposal.

Kirwan asked lawmakers if they were satisfied with the status quo.

“Or are we going to do something bold? Make a big investment, build a world-class workforce and give every kid in every ZIP code a chance to pursue the American dream?” Kirwan said.

Debate over the education spending plans is expected to continue throughout the legislative session, which began last week.

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