Maryland Democrats in the General Assembly have rushed through a pair of bills which they say will “transform Maryland’s… education system to the levels of the highest-performing systems…” The price tag? $1,000,000,000 taxpayer dollars.
The bills, (SB 1030 / HB 1413) known as the “Kirwan Blueprint Bill,” or “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,” implements recommendations of the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, providing grants to students living in areas with a “concentration of poverty,” providing grants for teachers, and establishing an office of State Inspector General for Education. In addition, the House and Senate Bills provide state assistance to counties who commit to fund teacher salaries at an amount higher than that stipulated in their contracts.
So what is the Kirwan Commission? It’s a 26-member panel, created in 2016 by the legislature, led by and named for William Kirwan, former Chancellor of the University of Maryland. It’s job is to ensure that schools are funded in a way that guarantees a quality education regardless of the economic health of the district in which the school operates.
Where is the money coming from? $225 million of it comes from funds earmarked for other projects in fiscal 2020, meaning that non-education agencies have seen their operating budgets reduced in order to fund an arm of government that already consumes more than 60% of every tax dollar. Other funding is expected to be pulled from casino revenue, and from a proposed new online sales tax.
The bills have become law without Governor Larry Hogan’s signature. Hogan, while supporting excellence in education, has expressed concern: “I have significant reservations about your shortsighted methods for implementing the Kirwan Commission’s final recommendations — namely that they will lead to massive increases in expenditures without providing the fiscal safeguards and much-needed accountability our students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers deserve.”
Indeed, the Department of Management and Budget estimates an increased tax burden of $6,200 per Maryland Household as the plan, which ultimately provides an additional $3.8 Billion in annual funding, is phased in over the next ten years.