School funding, early childhood education focus at Kirwan Commission hearing

Early childhood education, funding — especially for state-mandated programs — teacher compensation and help for low-income and minority groups were the major concerns Marylanders raised Thursday night at the hearing for the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.

The commission, known as the Kirwan Commission named after Chairman William Kirwan, is a 25-person committee made up of senators, delegates and other leaders across the state, including Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Guthrie.

The hearing, held in Frederick High School, brought out about 30 speakers who delivered testimony over nearly two hours. And while many of those who came out were Frederick County community members and leaders, their topics touched on issues Carroll County schools continue to face.

Kirwan spoke before testimony began, telling the small crowd the commission, which was created in 2016, was given a precise charge with two parts.

The General Assembly created the commission in 2016 to re-examine the education aid formula crafted by the Thornton Commission — named after Chairman Alvin Thornton — from 1999 to 2002, The Baltimore Sun reported. The formula was enacted by the legislature in 2002 and has governed the distribution of billions of dollars per year in school aid to local jurisdictions since then.

The commission is scheduled to produce a final report and recommendations in December 2017 so that it can be considered in the legislature’s 2018 session.

“We are charged with developing policies … so that Maryland’s Pre-K-12 system performs at the level … of the best performing countries in the world and states in the United States,” he said. “Maryland schools are OK. But they can and should be much better.”

Traci Tatum, the Parent Teacher Association president for the Frederick County Council spoke about the importance of education funding in the state, and the importance of that funding covering programs like pre-K.

“Funding for our schools must become a priority in Maryland,” she said.

Early childhood programs are needed and provide a stable foundation of learning, she added.

“We have a long way to goal in achieving what might be considered world class education,” Tatum said.

This story will be updated.


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