A Maryland commission studying how to improve the state’s education system endorsed a plan Thursday that eventually would require $4 billion more to be spent each year on public schools.
The state and local governments would increase their education spending gradually to fund expanded prekindergarten, improved career and technology training, increased teacher salaries and more resources for high-poverty schools.
The recommendation now goes to the General Assembly for consideration during the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 8.
“I consider this to be a capstone of my professional career,” said William “Brit” Kirwan, the former University System of Maryland chancellor who chaired the commission.
The Kirwan Commission had met for more than three years to study how to improve public schools. After the commission issued recommendations on classroom reforms, state lawmakers sent the panel back to work this year to refine how much the recommendations would cost and how the money should be split up.
The commission did not recommend where the additional money should come from.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has insisted that the extra spending on education will result in a significant tax increase for Marylanders, and he has blasted the commission as the “Kirwan Tax Hike Commission.” He held an event earlier this month to raise money for his Change Maryland organization to promote his priorities, including fighting the Kirwan Commission recommendations.
Hogan repeated those claims in a statement issued after the vote.
“Some good ideas have been discussed, but the commission mostly focused on simply increasing spending, rather than real accountability measures and better results for our children," he said in the statement.
Hogan’s budget secretary, David Brinkley, was among three commission members who voted against the final recommendation. Brinkley said he had concerns that there has been no source of funding identified and the policies haven’t been prioritized by “what gives us the biggest benefit.”
Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, an Eastern Shore Republican, also voted “no” and raised concerns that local governments won’t be able to afford to pay for their share.
The recommendation calls for gradual increases in school spending. By 2030, the state government would pay $2.8 billion more on schools than current projections and local governments would pay $1.2 billion more.
Nineteen commission members voted in favor of the plan, and some offered passionate support for the increased funding, even as they noted that finding the money will be the next challenge.
Morgan Showalter, a Baltimore teacher, addressed his remarks to the students of Maryland: “We see you. We love you and we did this for you. We did this for your children and for your children’s children, because what we do here will transform generations.”
State lawmakers are now expected to consider a variety of ways to drum up more money for education. The requirement for more funding is likely to have strong support in the Democrat-led General Assembly.
Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat who has been nominated to be the next Senate president, is also a member of the Kirwan Commission, and he offered his strong support.
“This is the end of one chapter and the opening of another,” he said.
Ferguson publicly invited Hogan to meet with legislative leaders to work together on finding the money for the additional education spending.
Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Kirwan Commission member who chairs the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers’ first task will be to look at ways to generate money to pay for the plan’s initial years.
“I think it’s going to be more and more over time,” said McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat, in an interview.
McIntosh said if the economy stays relatively healthy, then regular economic growth will take care of some of the financial deman. She said lawmakers will consider ways to more accurately collect sales tax from online sales, including downloads of books and other materials.
Further down the road, McIntosh said, legalizing recreational use of marijuana could be a source of money for education.
Some backers of the education funding plan have suggested other options, including increasing the income tax rate for the richest Marylanders, changing how corporations must report their taxable earnings and phasing out some corporate tax subsidies. Business groups are pushing back, saying those changes could chase businesses out of the state.
City and county governments, meanwhile, will look at where they can find money for their share. Some face significant bills: Baltimore City, for example, would be required to spend $330 million more per year on schools by 2030, and would receive $500 million more in education aid in the state.
Baltimore County would have to spend $88 million more on schools eventually, while receiving $348 million more from the state.
Other counties would not have to increase their share of school spending at all, or only by modest amounts.
“Each county is looking at its potential effects,” said Michael Sanderson, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties.