Kirwan Commission Lays Out Latest Recommendations to Revamp Md. Schools

Members of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, known as the Kirwan Commission, convene Sept. 21 in Annapolis to discuss ways to improve the Maryland education system.
Members of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, known as the Kirwan Commission, convene Sept. 21 in Annapolis to discuss ways to improve the Maryland education system.
By William J. Ford

ANNAPOLIS — The 25-member group tasked to help prescribe remedies to boost the Maryland educational system offered more recommendations Friday, which lawmakers hope can be approved before the Maryland General Assembly reconvenes in January.

The first part of the session at the House of Delegates focused on early childhood education, specifically to expand pre-kindergarten at no cost for low-income 3-year-olds and all 4-year-olds.

Some of the updated changes discussed by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education included a private service provider who accepts public money wouldn’t have to adopt any state regulations “that conflicts with its religious or more teachings.” However, that entity may not discriminate against a student’s parent or guardian based on “race, color, disability, national origin, or sexual orientation.”

The state would require all early childhood teachers receive training on cultural competency and “restorative practices.”

“It’s about building more opportunities for children before they enter kindergarten,” said Craig Rice, a Montgomery County councilman who chairs the early childhood workgroup.

David Brinkley, a commission member and budget secretary for Gov. Larry Hogan, said certain state incentives may not entice some private businesses to enroll all students.

“Sometimes there becomes a thought process and make the world subscribe to a certain standard,” he said. “They might still be able to function, but they cannot choose some of the students that we’re targeting here because this is all hinged on state money.”

The commission, also known as the Kirwan Commission named after former University of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan, became established in 2016 to study and find adequate funding to improve the school system.

Earlier this year, the group released a proposed document it could cost nearly $3 billion. Education advocates say that’s the current amount schools are underfunded annually.

In regard to teachers, there’s a proposal to increase salaries by 10 percent over the next three years to compete with New Jersey and Massachusetts, the two states mentioned in a preliminary report this year.

Delegate Alonzo Washington (D-District 22), a member of the commission who represents Prince George’s County, asked about a chart that outlines the average salaries of 14 other occupations such as accountants and auditors, occupation therapist and registered nurses.

Compared with the education professions that averaged out to $64,600, the other jobs’ mean salary came to $80,461.

“I want to ensure our teachers are paid adequately and…our teachers have ample time to have planning sessions during the day and have time for professional development,” Washington said after the first three-hour session. “These recommendations will be in line for 15 to 20 years, so it’s best we take our time to get it right. However, I’m hopeful we get something soon.”

After a lunch break, the commission continued Friday afternoon to review proposals on college and career readiness and resources for at-risk students.

Another meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Oct. 10.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer.

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