Kirwan Commission Calls for Universal Pre-K, Teacher Raises in Md.

Prince George's County School board member Lupi Quinteros-Grady speaks during a Jan. 11 meeting in Greenbelt at which state Sen. Paul Pinsky (left) gave updates on recommendations to a statewide plan for school funding. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Prince George's County School board member Lupi Quinteros-Grady speaks during a Jan. 11 meeting in Greenbelt at which state Sen. Paul Pinsky (left) gave updates on recommendations to a statewide plan for school funding. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

An education commission gave a preliminary update on its assessment of Maryland public schools on Thursday, issuing policy recommendations that include expanded early-childhood education and increasing teacher salaries.

The meeting at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt laid out the early recommendations from the report by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, known as the Kirwan Commission, released earlier this week.

In addition to universal pre-K and salary increases over the next four to five years for state teachers, the commission also called for making sure high school students are college- and career-ready by the end of the 10th grade and raising certain benchmarks such as professional development.

State Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-District 22) of University Park, who serves on the 25-member commission, said the price tag to implement a new statewide system of education could be at least $2 billion.

“If we are going to have a lot of success, how much is it going to cost?” Pinsky said. “If you want a world-class system … it’s going to take a lot of changes.”

Pinsky admitted a tax hike to pay for restructuring the system — especially in an election year — is “scary,” but said he’s willing to raise taxes nonetheless.

The state legislature created the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in 2016 to asses and possibly revise state formula to distribute money for schools and enact new policies. The commission is led by William E. Kirwan, former chancellor of the University of Maryland system.

The new recommendations are partly based on five policy areas: early childhood education; ample supply of high quality and diverse teachers and school leaders; college and career readiness pathways; more resources for at-risk students; and governance and accountability.

According to the draft document, some of the recommendations come from education systems in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey. Those states pay its teachers at least 16 percent more in salaries than Maryland.

In addition, the report highlights how the three states pay an average of $2,200 more per student as opposed to Maryland.

Student achievement ranks “average” among others states based on figures from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), viewed as the nation’s record.

In 2015, the state ranked 29th and 25th in fourth-grade and eighth-grade math, respectively. For reading in the same year for those students, it ranked 26th for fourth-graders and 18th for eighth-graders.

“Putting it bluntly, despite a significant increase in state funding over the past 15 years, Maryland students still perform in the middle of the pack within the US, which is in the middle of the pack against the rest of the modern world,” according to the report.

The report doesn’t address a few items such school construction, a question raised by Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan.

“Our charge was operations and instruction, not bricks and mortar,” said Pinsky, who added a final report wouldn’t be completed until the fall.

For more information on the draft, go to http://bit.ly/2qXdymI.

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About William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer 397 Articles

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways:
Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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