THE TIME IS NOW
Maryland has a real chance to build a world-class education system for every public school student in the state. Maryland is in the middle of a once in a generation moment so the time for action is now.
In 2016, the Maryland General Assembly and the Governor created the Maryland Commission on Education and Innovation, better known as the “Kirwan Commission.” This commission is examining how to make Maryland a world-class education system. The commission is going to be suggesting updates to the current funding formula as well as recommending where Maryland should invest resources to build a system that is world-class for every student. Initial recommendations came out in January with funding recommendations to be delivered this fall. The consequences of the commission’s recommendations and the action taken by the General Assembly and Governor will last at least for at least a generation. The 2020 legislative session will be make or break for the next generation of learners in Maryland public schools. The need is clear and Marylanders are demanding we improve our public schools. This is the best chance to create a world-class system for every student in Maryland. The time is now to get it done.
Maryland is falling behind other states as our country is losing ground internationally. Maryland has the potential to be the best system in the country but the indicators are moving in the wrong direction. In the most recent NAEP test, Maryland students fell to 23rd in reading and math and 29th in science. Even more shocking, when we compare students with similar backgrounds across the nation, Maryland falls to 37th. Even more disheartening, Maryland is the only state to see 4th and 8th grade test scores drop in reading and math.
Additionally, by the state’s own report, Maryland public schools areunderfunded by at least $2.9 billion annually. This funding gap comes out to an average of $2 million per school. With a gap this large, students and families have experienced the cutting of classes, the elimination of teachers, and the unwillingness to invest in critical programs such as pre-kindergarten or career and technical education classes.
Maryland can and must do better but we are facing new challenges since the last time we updated the funding formula.
The last time the funding formula was updated was 2002. At that time, 22% of Maryland public schools students lived in poverty. In 2017, that number has doubled to 44%.
More than half of all Maryland schools, (822 out of 1412) are now considered to be schools meeting the standard of concentrated poverty. (The US Census Bureau considers any tract with 40% or more poverty to be “concentrated“). Our schools are tasked with off-setting the negative impacts of poverty without the resources to provide high quality, research based solutions.
Additionally, there are many areas where there is clear consensus for policies that will improve student outcomes but investments have not been made in these programs. For instance, there are decades of research showing pre-kindergarten is good for all students but has the greatest impact on students from low-income backgrounds.
Further, Maryland is facing a shortage of high quality teachers and principals. There are not enough students choosing to become teachers and too many teachers are choosing to leave the profession early in their careers. We must create the conditions and incentives to draw top students into the profession and build supports and opportunities that allow them to stay in schools.