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Have you heard about the Kirwan Commission?

A recent Goucher College Poll asked Maryland residents about the Kirwan Commission:

77 percent - have heard or read nothing about the Kirwan Commission.

22 percent - have heard or read a little, some, or a lot about Kirwan

Why is this important to you?

The Maryland Department of Budget and Management estimates that if fully funded, Kirwan would cost each Maryland family at least $6,200 in additional taxes over the next 5 years.

What is the Kirwan Commission?

The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, aka The Kirwan Commission, formed in 2016 and is led by former University of Maryland Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan.

The commission’s purpose is to:

1) Update the current education funding formulas

2) Make policy recommendations that would enable Maryland’s preK-12 system to perform at the level of the best-performing systems in the world.

In May, Governor Hogan reluctantly funded limited programs recommended by the commission through this year and next. Governor Hogan’s 2019 letter details his concerns. I am also very concerned about next year’s bill(s) to implement future years of the Kirwan plan. Without restraint, there will be large tax increases coming. We need better accountability on the funding/spending and educational outcomes for our children.

Will history repeat itself?

The Kirwan Commission has a father named the Thornton Commission

What is the Thornton Commission?

The Commission on Education Finance, Equity and Excellence, The Thornton Commission, formed in 2002 and lead by former Howard University political science professor and Prince George’s County Board of Education Chairman Alvin Thornton.

The commission’s purpose was to:

1) Ensure adequate school funding

2) Reduce funding inequities among school districts

3) Ensure excellence in school systems and student performance.

Does this sound familiar?

This past week, the Kirwan Commission approved a funding formula that would require an additional $4 billion dollars spent on education annually by 2030. The commission does not know where the money will come from. That will be decided by the governor, state, and local lawmakers.

Also last week, the Thornton Commission was referenced during a Kirwan Commission hearing. A Maryland Reporter article highlighting the testimony of Marc Tucker, talked about the Thornton Commission missteps for costs and accountability.

Costs:

Thornton estimated increases in state funding of $1.1 billion dollars, about an 80% increase.

The actual increase in state funding totaled $3.2 billion dollars, about a 113% increase.

Accountability:

Tucker stated, “The state Department of Education was not held accountable by the legislature for its failure to hold districts accountable for their performance.” He also added, “Maryland now ends up with one of the most expensive state systems in the United States but only average student performance.”

To prevent the history of excessive costs and unaccountability in the Thornton Commission from repeating itself, we must stay informed and work together.

As a former teacher, education is important to me. Fiscal responsibility and accountability are also important to me. As always, I welcome your thoughts on this important issue. If you’d like to go one step further, there is a Kirwan Commission public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 12th from 5:00-7:30pm in Room 120 of the House Office Building, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis. Be sure to confirm the schedule by clicking on the “public hearing scheduled” link before making the trip.

Governor Hogan Hits the Accelerator to End Chesapeake Bay Bridge Traffic Backups

Our communities have been frustrated with traffic backups related to resurfacing and repairs to the westbound span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Although there is agreement that these repairs were critical, it has caused a great deal of difficulty. Governor Hogan is also frustrated and, on October 16, announced actions to expedite the completion of the project.

The Governor stated, “My most important responsibility is the safety of Maryland citizens. Not taking action is not an option. But I am demanding that every effort must be taken to complete this project as soon as possible. And I am demanding that all the experts look at every possible solution that is feasible.”

The following actions will be implemented

  • MDOT will make every effort to expedite the project, and crews will work 24 hours a day.
  • MDTA will eliminate the tollbooths and move to all-electronic tolling on the bridge as soon as possible.
  • MDOT, SHA, and the Maryland State Police will assist in improving the flow and direction of traffic.
  • Traffic engineers will work with Queen Anne’s and Anne Arundel County leaders to negotiate a solution and find a balanced approach to westbound and eastbound traffic approaching the bridge.
  • Administration officials will redouble efforts to seek input from local leaders and residents.

The repairs cannot be delayed any longer, but the Administration is looking at every possible way to speed up the work and manage the traffic flow. Governor Hogan has assured the citizens that he will “continue to push the entire state government to do everything possible to mitigate the pain, shorten the time frame, and expedite the completion of the safety repairs.”