Maryland delegates voted Thursday to approve a two-year plan to send more than $850 million in extra funding to the state’s public schools.
The House of Delegates voted 112-22 in favor of the bill, called the “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,” which already passed the Senate by a vote of 43-1.
“It’s a tremendous, tremendous first step,” said Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who sits on the so-called Kirwan Commission, which is studying how best to improve Maryland’s schools. “The goal of Kirwan is for us to have the best educational system in the country and for us to close the achievement gap.”
McIntosh said $52 million in the first year of funding from the bill will go to Baltimore public schools.
The House version of the bill contains some significant changes to the Senate version. Unlike the Senate, the House made the funding mandatory, expanded the pool of school employees eligible for raises and made an inspector general, appointed to ensure accountability, subject to a unanimous vote of the governor, attorney general and treasurer.
Those differences must be worked out before the legislation can advance to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk for his consideration.
Both version of the bill call for the state to spend an additional $355 million on public schools in fiscal year 2021.
The House version calls for an additional $500 million in mandatory spending in fiscal year 2022, whereas the Senate version makes $130 million of that spending contingent on whether the General Assembly passes laws that will bring in more revenue to the state.
The money would go primarily to three areas: increasing teacher pay, expanding pre-kindergarten and creating “community schools” in high-poverty areas. Community schools provide additional services for families, such as health care.
The programs are among those recommended by the Kirwan Commission, which has been reviewing the state’s education system and its funding for the past couple of years. The commission is named for its chairman, William “Brit” Kirwan, a former chancellor of the state university system.
The Kirwan Commission issued a lengthy report with scores of recommendations, but has not yet developed the related funding plan. Supporters said the bill under review would make a start toward paying for some of the recommendations.
In a statement after the vote, House Republicans also cheered passage of aspects of the bill, calling it “hard-fought legislation to increase accountability in education systems across the state.”
The GOP praised amendments to include a statewide inspector general who would be responsible for investigating allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse in Maryland's school systems — a proposal favored by Hogan.
"Our citizens are outraged by headlines laden with the corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse by public officials,” said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, an Anne Arundel Republican. "Their outrage is amplified when those we trust to educate our children are implicated in scandal. There have been multiple examples of this over the last several years across our state. I am glad to see the House of Delegates recognize this need and finally agree to create this Inspector General's Office."