As a Democrat, I believe that Democrats are the party that can identify a path towards fully funding Kirwan. To prove this, Maryland Democratic leaders must proactively and rapidly come to consensus on a comprehensive funding strategy before the governor successfully convinces Marylanders that this is impossible (“The $25,000-a-table attack on Maryland public schools,” Oct. 15).
A Democratic funding strategy will succeed when it acknowledges that finding the proposed billions of dollars in additional funding is a major challenge that will require a collaborative effort across state and local governments, all of which operate with budget constraints. In a political landscape where Kirwan is a major test of whether Maryland Democrats can craft actionable, outcomes-based policy and make a case for regaining the governor’s mansion in 2022, we cannot let “fully funding Kirwan” (a phrase I repeated incessantly while door-knocking last year) become a hollow sentiment.
I worry that this is what I’m beginning to see as Democratic leaders at all levels of government appear understandably poised to pass the Kirwan buck. Democrats must not fall into this trap, though, of pitting local jurisdictions and the state against one another in pursuit of limited funding and at the expense of myriad priorities that we know also contribute to student success: housing, public transportation, the environment (“4 key questions about Maryland commission’s proposal to spend billions more on state’s public schools,” Oct. 16). Acknowledging the challenge in finding additional funds for education does not represent a lack of prioritization of student success at any level of government. Such an argument will look like infighting and will make Democrats appear unorganized and unable to lead. Instead, let’s lead by showing that success on Kirwan can look like transparent and coordinated work: Democratic leaders at the state and local level should work together to identify a public-facing process to establish actionable and progressive, not regressive, strategies for funding Kirwan, in advance of the General Assembly session.
This is understandably more challenging without a Democratic governor at the helm, but we can and must do it. The alternative, as we’re beginning to see, will be the governor’s and Republican control of the narrative: making Kirwan synonymous with tax hikes and ultimately succeeding at preventing the implementation of this new funding formula for our schools.
Emma Oppenheim, Baltimore
Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.