The majority of Marylanders recognize the need for improvements to various aspects of the state’s public schools, including teacher salaries, facility repairs, vocational training and spending accountability. But most residents do not want taxes to increase in order to pay for state services, a recent Goucher College poll finds.
The poll found that 93 percent said public schools should offer more job and vocational training; 85 percent said teacher salaries are too low; 76 percent said Maryland public school buildings and facilities are “run-down”; 69 percent said Maryland public schools do not receive enough state funding; and 64 percent said state funding is not spent effectively by public school administrators.
Yet a combined 65 percent of people either want to keep taxes and state government services as they are now, or have fewer state services to reduce taxes. Only 28 percent said they were willing to pay higher taxes to help fund more or improved state services.
In contrast, 74 percent of respondents to a poll Goucher College conducted in September said they support personally paying more in taxes to improve public schools.
In Goucher’s new poll, 51 percent of respondents said their state taxes were “too high,” 44 percent said they were “about right,” and just 3 percent said the amount they pay in state taxes is “too low.”
Furthermore, 69 percent of respondents had heard or read “nothing at all” about the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, or “Kirwan Commission,” which made recommendations about Maryland’s public schools that were then used by state legislators as the foundation of an education funding proposal called the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.
“While the public continues to be largely unaware of the Kirwan Commission itself, large majorities of Marylanders recognize that public schools are facing the very problems its recommendations were designed to address,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center.
For example, residents across party lines largely agree that public schools need more vocational training and better paid teachers, Kromer said.
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future calls for the development of career and technical education in elementary, middle and high school curricula.
The bill would also make the starting teacher salary $60,000 per year, and a career ladder system would allow teachers to gain authority, status and compensation with experience.
Overwhelming public recognition of needed school improvements, however, remains at odds with questions of how to pay for such services, with Marylanders not wanting to foot the bill through tax increases.
“Our results suggest that the costs of the Kirwan recommendations, rather than the merits of the plan, will be of concern to Marylanders,” Kromer said.
The telephone poll surveyed 713 Maryland adults from Feb. 13-18, with a margin of error plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future bill, which was introduced in both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly at the beginning of the month, intends to “transform Maryland’s early childhood, primary, and secondary education system to the 2 levels of high–performing systems around the world.”
The funding would be phased in over 10 years, with the total annual estimated cost– including state and local funding–being $3.8 billion each year after the plan is fully implemented.
As part of the plan, the state would pay for about $2.6 billion annually and local governments would pay a combined approximately $1.3 billion annually by 2030.
State legislators are weighing different options to pay for the plan, but most come down to taxes.
The education funding proposal has been a key item of attention for lawmakers in Annapolis since they began the 2020 legislative session in January.
That focus has drawn the ire of Gov. Larry Hogan, who recently criticized state legislators for their lack of progress on other pieces of legislation, including the four bills from the governor aimed at reducing violent crime in Baltimore.
Hogan also criticized comments by Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who said the need to secure Kirwan funding is “a matter of life and death.” But Young has stood by that characterization and argued that increasing funding for schools could help reduce the likelihood of students turning to a life of crime.
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