Maryland lawmakers who have been negotiating the finishing touches on the state's $46.6 billion budget wrapped up their work Monday, settling on $255 million in additional funding for the next fiscal year to begin implementing a state commission's recommendations to improve schools.

The added money to begin implementing the Kirwan Commission's recommendations will go toward expanding pre-K and increasing special education funding. Some also will be set aside for teacher-pay increases.

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"We're going to move forward with that, and I'm pleased that this will be the first step in Kirwan," said Del. Maggie McIntosh, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

McIntosh said it's hoped the state will be planning to set aside more than $300 million for fiscal year 2021 to implement Kirwan recommendations.

Senators want to cut $1M from Maryland university system office due to 'lack of transparency and accountability'

A Maryland Senate panel wants to cut $1 million from the state university system’s top office in the contentious aftermath of a football player’s death and a separate case involving the system’s chancellor.

The panel also settled on $500 million for school construction funding. The conference committee's report now goes to the General Assembly for final approval.

The panel kept budget language focusing on displeasure with what has been described as a lack of transparency and accountability in the state university system's top office. Lawmakers have pointed to the aftermath of Maryland football player Jordan McNair’s death last year. Lawmakers also expressed concerns about the university system chancellor promoting a jewelry company's charm bracelets and how his chief of staff was treated for raising an ethics concern.

The panel settled on cutting $642,600, which happens to be the annual salary of Chancellor Robert Caret. The cut would apply to the system's office, not the chancellor's salary. The panel of lawmakers also retained language that restricts $200,000, unless the system's office submits a report to the House and Senate budget committees on any outside income the chancellor received in fiscal year 2017, 2018 and 2019. The language was clarified to specifically say the report should identify the source of the outside income.

The budget action comes after The Associated Press reported this month that Caret's chief of staff at the time in 2017 ended up filing a grievance after Caret sent her a job performance assessment questioning her ability to continue as his chief of staff when she raised an ethics concern over the email Caret wrote on behalf of Pandora Jewelry. He later reversed the negative performance assessment after she told then-Board of Regents Chairman James Brady she might have to file a grievance.

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But, without an apology or other assurance she would not face further potential action, she filed a grievance. In November 2017, she agreed to a settlement signed by Caret.

In a statement last week, the university system said that the email was appropriately self-reported by the chancellor and discussed with the state ethics commission by the then-board chairman. The system also said the matter was discussed with members of the Board of Regents.

"With regard to the allegation of retaliation against a staff member, the Chancellor did not retaliate against any USM employee," the system said, adding that as a rule, the system doesn't discuss personnel matters.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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