William “Brit” Kirwan discussed school improvements on March 5, 2019, with Strong Schools Maryland representatives in Annapolis, Maryland. Charlie Youngmann / Capital News Service
William “Brit” Kirwan discussed school improvements on March 5, 2019, with Strong Schools Maryland representatives in Annapolis, Maryland. Charlie Youngmann / Capital News Service

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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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...

One reply on “Poll: Marylanders support school improvements, but don’t want to pay with increased taxes”

  1. Without a doubt, people are in favor of improving the Maryland education system to be globally

    Respect is expressed for the effort the Kirwan Commission members put into this study and their
    recommendations, TO A POINT!

    As we know, the Kirwan Commission estimated the cost to implement their recommendations to be
    approximately $4,000,000,000.00 per year, every year, cumulatively.

    To illustrate the gravity of this HUGE NUMBER on Marylanders, let’s, for example,
    spread the cost of Kirwan evenly over all Maryland households.

    Per Census, there are approximately 2,200,000 Maryland households. Simple math, this amounts to
    approximately $1,818.00 additional expense per household, per year, every year, cumulatively,
    for 10 years; $18,180.00.

    And, as we all know, any TAX OR FEE imposed by the General Assembly to fund Kirwan
    WILL TRICKLE DOWN to the BASIC SOURCE OF ALL MONEY for the State and Counties,
    down to all Marylanders, i.e., HB1628.

    While we are supposedly a wealthy State, we have a 13% poverty rate in Maryland, with many,
    many more households living pay check-to-pay check.
    How in the world will those households afford the passed-thru costs of Kirwan?

    We continually discuss the need for affordable housing in MD. Real estate taxes, which will be
    significantly raised to fund Counties share of the cost of Kirwan, are part of the budget and financial
    plan for affording a home; we are trying to entice young families to stay-here, move-here.

    Funding Kirwan could very well be anti-growth, hindering all important student population growth.

    Question: Who among us would decide to fully upgrade our home with: new roof and siding; new
    cabinets, countertops, sinks, faucets for kitchen and bathroom[s]; all new kitchen appliances – refrig,
    dish washer, stove, oven; plus a new refrig in basement or garage; fresh coat of interior paint; all new
    light fixtures; a new heating and a/c system; construction of a room addition and a patio; and a new
    driveway, without first and foremost, being prudent, practical and sensible people, establishing how
    much we can afford and how we are going to pay for it?
    NO ONE!

    What everyone would do, being prudent, practical and sensible, is list, in decreasing order of importance, what needs to be done on a priority basis, implementing your home improvement plan, in this case a State Edu Improvement Plan, based on a affordable budget, what you can afford, and most importantly when you can afford to pay for it.

    Even Dr. Kirwan recommendations don’t have to be implemented all at once.
    We should take that advise!

    Mike Waal
    Chestertown, MD

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