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Expanded Early Childhood, Increased Teacher Pay Proposed in Md.

An advisory panel in Maryland will meet next month to continue discussions on improving education in the state ahead of its final report, which so far has yielded radical suggestions such as putting principals and assistant principals back in the classroom.

The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education — also known as the Kirwan Commission, led by William Kirwan, former University of Maryland System chancellor — is set to reconvene Sept. 5, when it may possibly approve a final report on topics focused on early childhood education, how to obtain high-quality educators, college and career readiness, tutoring and special education.

The commission met Thursday, Aug. 23 to review these plans, which included such recommendations as implementing full-day pre-kindergarten for 3-year-old children from low–income families over a 10-year period.

On the same day, while accepting a round of endorsements from state leaders during a campaign rally outside Suitland High School in Forestville, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous proposed to increase teacher pay statewide by 29 percent.

“Why? Because we have to keep it going up for a while to catch up where everybody else is,” Jealous said with educators clapping in applause. “You don’t hold on to your teachers in any other county unless we pay a competitive wage.”

As the commission complete its final recommendations for the Maryland General Assembly to review next year, two organizations published polls to make their own cases.

The Maryland State Education Association, which endorsed Jealous over incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, released a poll Aug. 23 which showed the majority of public school educations spend their own money on school supplies.

In addition, they work second jobs in order to pay for student debt and other personal finances, according to the poll, which was conducted by D.C.-based GBA Strategies.

“Far too many educators are struggling to make ends meet,” said Baltimore County elementary teacher and MSEA President Cheryl Bost. “It’s clear that Maryland needs to do more for our teachers and school staff. Educators devote their lives to making a difference for every single child in their community, yet as a state we have allowed educators to become undervalued.”

An accompanying memo summarizing the poll results highlights some of the numbers calculated by the 800 educators surveyed July 17-22:

• In the past year, 91 percent of teachers used their own money to purchase school supplies.

• In the past year, nearly 40 percent have student debt.

• In the past year, 48 percent of teachers of color work a second job.

The poll also posed several questions such as whether “inadequate staffing levels make it hard to keep my head above water during the school day.”

About 45 percent “strongly agree” and 71 percent were in total agreement.

Also, 69 percent agreed their individual school doesn’t have adequate funding to ensure all students are successful.

Gonzales Research and Media Services conducted a poll on behalf of the Maryland Family Network of Baltimore that found an overwhelming number of voters approve expansion of pre-kindergarten services in public schools.

According to the poll released Friday, Aug. 24, about 75 percent of those surveyed favor access to those services for all 4-year-old children in the state.

Approximately 70 percent favor to allow pre-kindergarten education for 3-year-old children from low-income families.

In terms of race, 73 percent of Blacks polled support spending more money for those children to receive those services. It’s the same percentage among those from the Washington metropolitan region.

The poll, conducted Aug. 1-8, surveyed 831 registered voters by landline and cellphone with a plus-minus margin of 3½ percentage points.

One initiative already approved this year in the Maryland General Assembly is a public relations campaign targeting the top 25 percent high school students in each county to encourage them to consider the teaching profession.

According to the proposal, it would be managed by the state Department of Education and cost $250,000 annually. The amount could decrease if teacher recruitment increases.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

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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