By Charlie Youngmann
Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Democratic legislators announced Tuesday “The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,” a bill that would provide funding for increased teacher salaries, improved teacher training and free, full-day prekindergarten for 3- and 4-year-old children in poverty.
Introduced by House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel County), this bill—along with an identical counterpart in the Maryland Senate—would allocate $325 million in fiscal year 2020 and $750 million in fiscal year 2021 toward funding the five main policy areas outlined by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.
The panel—nicknamed the “Kirwan Commission”—has been working since 2016 to come up with recommendations for education improvements across the state, Chair William “Brit” Kirwan said Tuesday.
Kirwan called his experience with the commission the “most important thing I have ever worked on in my life,” citing the shortage of teachers in the state of Maryland as a major contributor to a lack of academic success.
House Bill 1413 would establish more opportunities for career growth among educators and provide them with salary increases in order to avoid the “revolving door” of teachers that some schools are suffering from, Kirwan said. The bill will also heighten the rigor of state certification standards for teachers, Kirwan said.
This bill would provide early support and intervention for low-income families, including full-day prekindergarten for children ages 3 and 4, according to Kirwan.
The blueprint will set a “college and career readiness standard,” one that is aimed to ensure that by the time a student completes the 10th grade (if not, by the time of high school graduation), they will have the English and mathematical literacy necessary to succeed in the first year of a community college program, according to Kirwan.
The “blueprint” will also provide pathways to free early college programs that would allow students who have met these standards to earn an associate’s degree while still in high school. The bill will also provide access to career and technical education for those who have met the college and career readiness standards.
The measure would provide additional support and services for English learners, students with disabilities and students from low-income families who have not met their college and career readiness standards.
The bill would also provide an accountability system to ensure that school districts are implementing the improvements identified by the commission, according to Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s County).
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) underlined the importance of making sure the bill’s accountability system is air-tight in a letter he sent to legislative leaders Nov. 27.
“Increased funding and strong accountability are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they must be aligned to ensure that Marylanders are receiving a world class education and good value for the state tax dollars invested,” Hogan said in the letter.
Students and educators, clad in red Strong Schools Maryland T-shirts, came to Annapolis to show their support.
Eleven-year-old City Neighbors Charter School student Mallory Lerch said increased funding and access to teachers would make for a better, more creative classroom environment at her school in Baltimore.
“I think our schools are really underfunded and we deserve more,” Mallory said.
The Maryland State Education Association said they are in support of the bill and the school improvements and teacher salary increases it addresses, according to the president, Cheryl Bost.
Though no hearing date has been set, identical legislation, Senate bill 1030, is scheduled to be heard by a Maryland Senate committee Wednesday.
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