Typically when state lawmakers return to Annapolis for the annual 90-day legislative session, each brings a unique set of priorities. But when the General Assembly convenes for its 441st session on Wednesday, one subject is poised to overshadow almost everything else: A proposal to overhaul public education in Maryland.
Democratic leaders in the state Senate and House of Delegates say they are confident the legislature will pass the sweeping education reforms recommended by what is known as the Kirwan Commission, and they say they won’t raise taxes to pay for the plan.
Baltimore Sen. Bill Ferguson, who has been nominated to replace Mike Miller as Senate President, said those reforms will be the “primary driver” of the session.
“I believe deeply that this is a once in a generation moment to do something truly meaningful to set the next generations up for success in a globalized world,” Ferguson said during a recent interview.
The commission led by former University System of Maryland Chancellor William “Brit” Kirwan spent three years developing the plan. Their goals were reducing inequities in the school system and making Maryland schools globally competitive. Proposed changes include free preschool for more Marylanders; new resources for schools in high-poverty areas; higher pay and training standards for teachers; and new job training programs for students.
At the end of a 10-year phase-in, the plan is predicted to add nearly $4 billion dollars to annual school spending.
“The cost of doing nothing is so astronomical, it is unbearable for the state of Maryland if we continue to perpetuate a system with deep inequities where less than 40% of our high school graduates are reading at a 10th grade level or doing Algebra I, Algebra II math at a sufficient level,” Ferguson said.