Hogan Decries Kirwan Vote to Press for Billions in School Funding

Originally published in the St. Mary's County Times

MPPI in the News Guy Leonard Nov 27, 2019

Last week the Kirwan Commission voted to send its recommendations to improve K through 12 education in Maryland to state law makers, setting up what is likely to be a contentious battle in the Maryland General Assembly this January over just how the state is going to pay for the $4 billion in funding increases over the next decade the commission’s report calls for.

 Gov. Larry Hogan quickly sounded his displeasure at the commission member’s vote without devising a method to pay for the massive increases in education spending.

“After more than three years of meetings, the Kirwan Tax Hike Commission has still failed to produce any plan to pay for its massive spending proposals, which will cost taxpayers more than $30 billion,” Hogan said in a statement. “Local leaders agree with me—they will not support the billions in crippling state and local tax increases that would be required. Some good ideas have been discussed, but the commission mostly focused on simply increasing spending, rather than real accountability measures and better results for our children.”

Hogan said his administration would continue to make education a priority. “I have made education the top priority of my administration, providing historically high funding five years in a row while leading the fight for more accountability in local school systems,” Hogan’s statement continued. “We pushed for and enacted the casino lockbox initiative to require a further investment of $4.4 billion more for our schools.

“No governor in Maryland history has invested more in education. I will continue to focus on reforms that will produce better results for Maryland taxpayers, parents, teachers, and especially students.”

The vote virtually guarantees a fight in the legislature, which is majority Democrat, many of whom are expected to support tax increases to fund the spending increases.

 Sen. Jack Bailey (R-Dist. 29) stated the Kirwan Commission was in essence a carte blanche for spending.

“We need accountability, we can’t write a blank check,” Bailey said. “We [Calvert and St. Mary’s counties] have good schools and educators compared to the big spenders inside the Beltway.

“We should not be throwing good money after bad; when it comes to funding accountability the Kirwan Commission lost its way.”

The leader of the state teacher’s union lauded the vote of commissioners, which was 19-3.

“This is a potentially game-changing moment for our students and our state— a once-in-a-generation opportunity to expand career and technical education, hire more educators and increase their pay, provide additional support to struggling learners, and create lasting educational equity and a more prosperous future for Maryland,” said Baltimore County elementary school teacher and MSEA President Cheryl Bost.

 ”Educators applaud the hard work of the Kirwan Commission and the leadership of Dr. Kirwan and look forward to working with the General Assembly to pass a new funding formula to ensure that every student in Maryland can attend a great public school. We must act during the 2020 legislative session because our kids can’t wait for the adequate and equitable school funding that they deserve.”

Increasing teacher pay is one of the main areas of improvement in the Kirwan Commission’s goals.

But the chief economist at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Stephen K. Walters, said of the Kirwan plan: “It won’t work and it will break the bank.”

He criticized the Kirwan Commission for not providing more school choices, such as charter schools and that Maryland schools are not making gains in student achievement despite major increases in school funding.

“The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) makes clear that Maryland’s public schools are doing less with more.  As of 2017, the latest year for which nationwide census data are available, Maryland spent 22 percent more on a per-pupil basis and paid its teachers 28 percent more than the national average,” Walters stated in an opinion piece published in the Frederick News Post. “From 2012 to 2017, the state increased per-pupil spending nine percent; meanwhile, its NAEP scores have been in steady decline.  Fourth-grade reading scores, for example, have plunged 11 points since 2011, while fourth-grade math scores are down seven points.”

Walters has opined that the actual costs of the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations could be closer to $30 billion rather than the commission’s stated $4 billion price tag