Marylanders Can't Afford Kirwan's Myths

A Dose of Reality: Kirwan is Expensive, Ineffective, Misguided

Special Report Feb 25, 2020



Maryland’s schools are underfunded

Per pupil, Maryland spends 22% more than the national average (as of 2017, the latest year for which nationwide data are available)


Maryland’s teachers are underpaid

Per pupil, Maryland teachers are paid 28% more than the national average


Maryland’s poorest jurisdictions are inadequately funded and unfairly treated by current school funding formulas

Per pupil, Baltimore City spends 10% more than the state average and gets 79% of its budget from federal/state sources; Prince George’s County spends 5% more than average and gets 64% of its budget from federal/state sources.


The Kirwan reform plan (“Blueprint for Maryland’s Future”) would “cost $4 billion over ten years”

Kirwan’s estimated costs total $32 billion over ten years, rising to $4 billion per year by the plan’s tenth year.  And that’s optimistic, reflecting billions in hoped-for “savings” and “offsets” unlikely to eventuate.


The Kirwan Commission’s spending recommendations are new ideas.

In 2002, the Thornton Commission recommended hiking state aid to education by 60% to create a “Bridge to Excellence” in schools. Billions in spending later, Maryland students’ test scores have been virtually flat – yet Kirwan advocates say again that more money is the key to “excellence.”


The Kirwan recommendations can be implemented without significantly raising taxes.


The 2020 Maryland General Assembly is considering a 51% increase in the sales tax burden – a highly regressive tax – as well as possible income, estate, and digital tax hikes to come up with the money for Kirwan.


The Kirwan reforms would not impose heavy financial burdens on Maryland’s local jurisdictions.


About 1/3 of Kirwan’s eventual costs will fall on localities; the most cash-strapped (Baltimore City, Prince George's County,   others) simply can’t afford Kirwan without major increases in local tax rates.


The Kirwan recommendations are necessary to reduce education inequality and opportunity gaps in Maryland.

Kirwan ignores school choice, which is the key to empowering poorer parents and addressing education inequality.


The Kirwan reform would certainly improve student outcomes.

Thornton’s payoff was almost imperceptible; Kirwan would continue Maryland’s legacy of high spending and poor student outcomes by limiting parental choice and encouraging education bureaucracy to grow.


Kirwan would make Maryland’s education system more transparent and accountable.

There’s very little accountability in Kirwan: annual spending for “Governance and Accountability” is less than one-tenth of one percent of the plan’s budget (per Kirwan Exhibit 5.1).


Kirwan recommends expanding pre-K programs; universal pre-K is very popular, and it would improve student outcomes.

Studies show that pre-K does not improve student outcomes beyond kindergarten. Survey shows that over 70% of Marylanders do not want to expand pre-K at the expense of other spending priorities.


The Kirwan proposal is very popular.

Polls that show support for Kirwan often fail to disclose the taxpayers’ cost of the plan; when costs are mentioned, the majority of Marylanders turn thumbs down.