Kirwan commission, tasked with addressing funding formula, educational practices, to hold hearing in Frederick

With only a few months until a final report is due from the Kirwan Commission, a hearing has been scheduled to receive public testimony on education.

The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, 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 will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28 at LYNX at Frederick High School. The hearing is open to the public.

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.

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Guthrie said the commission has spent almost a year-and-a-half working, with the first six or seven months dedicated to receiving information. And while the commission has been discussed often as focusing only on funding, Guthrie said it's also about looking at best educational practices and innovative programs.

"We also are looking at best practices across the world," he said, like comparing Maryland's education system to that of those in Finland and Hong Kong. "We're picking out pieces of what could be a best practices and we're coming up with recommendations."

The commission has discussed topics including higher education, teacher preparation, early childhood education, teacher salaries, career ladders, how education is approached as a whole and the number of hours in a school day, Guthrie said. And all of the topics are intertwined, he said.

"You can't change teacher salaries — considerably increasing teacher salaries — without creating teacher career ladders. And you can't raise the level of qualifications for teachers without changing teacher prep programs. And you can't change change teacher prep programs without changing the way that higher education provides teachers education programs," Guthrie said. "You can't change early childhood without changing the way early childhood teachers are created. You can't mandate universal Pre-K without changing the instruction program and facilities. Everything is interconnected with everything else."

And while he said they're not yet done, the commission is at the review stage of looking at possible recommendations that have been discussed so far.

Guthrie said he believes there will be a draft of the recommendations out in November before the final report comes in December.

"The recommendation from the Kirwan Commission will be a complete change in the educational system in Maryland," he said. "The recommendations will be sweeping."

But, because many of these changes could take time and money, Guthrie said implementation would likely be phased in until full implementation in 2030.

"What is being proposed now could never happen in just a couple of years," he added.

The commission recognizes the recommendations would take time, and that there needs to be a change in funding now for schools, especially those like Carroll, which are struggling with declining enrollment, he said.

The Kirwan Commission doesn't have anything decided yet to solve the problem short-term as recommendations would be implemented over the long-term, but it is discussing concepts, he added.


While some in local delegation are interested in seeing work done on the education funding issues in the state, there are concerns over costs of all of the changes.

Sen. Justin Ready said while he doesn't sit on the commission, the thing he's really watching closely is the funding formula portion of things.

Ready said while he understands in the long-term if a school system is losing students, it shouldn't be getting more money, the current funding formula doesn't take into account systems needing a little help smoothing out the immediate drop in funding.

And, because of how the formula includes relative wealth, Carroll again struggles, he said.

"We're considered relatively although I don't think anyone would call Carroll a wealthy county," Ready said, adding Carroll doesn't have a large industrial tax base like some counties do.

Ready, while looking forward to what the commission can do to help funding, did voice concerns about some of the other issues the Kirwan Commission is tackling, and what that means for the state education budget.

The goal is to improve the overall quality of education, he said, but it has to be done in a way that's financially smart. The state knows it can't just expand the education by billions of dollars a year, he added.

If you go

What: Kirwan Commission public hearing

When: 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28

Where: LYNX at Frederick High School, 650 Parkway, Frederick

Details: Anyone interested in testifying at the hearing must sign up by either emailing PreK-12InnovationandExcellenceCommission@mlis.state.md.us or calling Mindy McConville or Kim Landry at (410) 946-5510 or (301) 970-5510 by noon on the day of the hearing.