Labor Day is over. Bus routes have been checked, and school supplies have been bought. With the first week of school over, all the excitement and busyness settles into familiar routine. For those of us who teach and work in schools, we are just gearing up for the next ten months. This school year started with some great news. Carroll County Public Schools led the state in PARCC math scores and came in second for English. Our excellent results are an accomplishment we should all be proud of.

As good as we are, there is more to do. One educational initiative that will impact schools for years to come is the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. For the past two years they have been working on two tasks: First, make policy recommendations that will move Maryland schools to perform at the same level as the best school systems in the world. Second, they are finalizing the funding formulas that will help pay for this world class school system. The Kirwan Commission has covered a lot of territory, and you can read a summary of their recommendations at www.mabe.org/adequacy-funding.

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Carroll County children and educators have a lot to gain from these recommendations. We’ve already received additional state money allotted to teacher salaries. A recent Baltimore Sun article took a deep look at the difficulty school systems across the state are having attracting and retaining qualified teachers. It is estimated that about half of new teachers will leave the profession in two years. Teaching is hard, stressful work. Many feel they are underpaid and not treated as professionals. The high turnover rate is very expensive for counties, especially for Carroll. The Kirwan Commission addresses this problem head on with suggestions about planning time, staffing levels, and supporting kids in crisis. They are also looking at how to better fund counties with declining enrollment, another problem we face.

How to pay for everything is a legitimate concern. Maryland voters took a huge first step last year by passing Question 1, which guarantees the money from casino revenues actually goes to education. That money has started flowing in this year. The General Assembly took the second step by passing The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. This legislation mandates additional monies over the next three years for teacher salaries, special education, PreK, and other programs. This is great news; the Baltimore Sun also recently reported that most of the cost of the Kirwan Commission recommendations, such as expanding career technical programs in high schools, would be covered by projected revenue growth.

The citizens of Carroll County need to do two things. First, we need to ask ourselves to fully consider the value of quality education. If we do not make education a top priority, we doom ourselves to a downward spiral of ignorance and incompetence. A vibrant community can easily be measured by the quality of its schools. Secondly, we need to be knowledgeable so we can make informed decisions. Let’s not rely on social media or what the loudest voice shouts. Let’s find out for ourselves the costs involved in creating a world class school system and the consequences of not acting. MSEA is sponsoring a Community Forum on Sept. 17, 7 p.m., at Sykesville Middle School. This will be a great opportunity to get the facts. Our children are counting on us to do the right thing.

Tom Scanlan writes from Westminster.

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