As much as he has pretended during the last couple of years to not really know what’s going on with the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (aka the Kirwan Commission), as many times as he’s brushed off questions about it with vague expressions of interest in seeing a final report when it’s complete, he knows precisely where its recommendations stand. His own budget secretary is on the commission, and even if David Brinkley has been mysteriously failing to let him know what’s going on, its every move has been covered extensively in the press, particularly this newspaper. And we know he reads that — at least the editorials, which he likes to post on his Facebook page with big red Xs drawn over them.
We also have no doubt that Mr. Hogan is aware that the Kirwan Commission has concluded, in the words of its namesake, former University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan, that Maryland does not in fact have one of the best school systems in the nation. Rather, it is a middling state in a middling country when it comes to preparing our students to compete in a global economy. We would also be surprised if he is not aware that the Kirwan Commission found that the best school systems in the world spend more on schools with the most disadvantaged students, whereas Maryland does the opposite. We would be shocked if he isn’t familiar with the major policy ideas Kirwan has proposed to put Maryland on top — a major expansion of early childhood education; more support for special education; higher pay and standards in the teaching profession; and a reconfiguration of high school to provide direct pathways to careers for graduates, among other things. Mr. Kirwan has not been shy about discussing any of this.
We definitely know that Mr. Hogan is aware of the overall price tag the commission has established for its recommendations — an increase in education funding of about $4 billion per year a decade from now. He was quick to call it unaffordable.
Governor Hogan likes to pretend that because in each of the five budgets he has submitted, he proposed spending more on K-12 education than the year before no one can possibly complain about it. It’s true; Governor Hogan has proposed record school funding every year he’s been in office. So has every other governor dating back at least to the 1990s. But if the support you’re providing to schools is woefully inadequate, spending a little bit more can still be inadequate, and in Maryland’s case, we have extensive documentation assembled over the last two years demonstrating that it is.
Maybe Governor Hogan thinks if he ignores the Kirwan Commission, it will go away. The ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense Fund are betting that the judge overseeing a decades-old case about the adequacy of state support for city schools isn’t just going to forget about it. We don’t think the voters of this state will either. Drop the act, Governor Hogan. You know students in Baltimore and across the state are getting shortchanged. Now tell us what you’re going to do about it.