In March 2020, right before the outbreak of COVID19 caused an early end to the legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed HB 1300, the Kirwan Commission’s education bill – committing Maryland taxpayers to as much as $40 Billion in new education spending over the next decade on top of the billions of dollars we already spend each year (over $8 Billion in FY2020 alone). Governor Hogan wisely vetoed this legislation. Unfortunately, the General Assembly, dominated by liberal Democrats who seem to have no qualms about raising taxes or always spending more, overrode his veto last month.
I voted against Kirwan and fought to preserve the Governor’s veto for a number of reasons. For starters, I believe that taxpayers are owed real accountability on the return of their investment in state government and education in particular. They are owed the truth about where student achievement should stand at the end of potentially a decade of exploding spending. Taxpayers won’t find that anywhere in the Kirwan Commission’s report, nor in any of HB 1300’s 235 pages. There are no clear measures of success or failure as it relates to outcomes. While there are some reforms and changes – not everything in the Kirwan proposal is bad - the solution put forward in this bill basically adds $40 Billion in new spending on top of a mostly unchanged current structure of education. This bill is not a “Blueprint” as many have called it. It is a $40 Billion statement of aspiration – hope for a world class education – but no definition of what that really is.
In addition to the massive and unsustainable cost of up to $40 Billion in spending over the next decade, the Kirwan proposal is also outdated in the aftermath of COVID19. There is nothing in the 235 pages of HB 1300 that addresses issues that virtual learning has created and the lingering effects even after children return to school which has been quicker in Carroll County but only just beginning in the rest of the state. There is nothing about broadband connectivity, tutoring to catch students up that have fallen behind, or the increased role that parents and caregivers have had to take on.
For these reasons, I opposed Kirwan and was proud to lead the floor debate against it. The Kirwan Commission said themselves that our system is falling below expectations – particularly in specific areas of our state.
The only good news is, the battle doesn’t have to be over. There is widespread agreement that we want to improve education and some acknowledgement of the need to slow the process down. We can ditch the over-the-top unrealistic spending formula increases and focus on more targeted priorities with clear measurements of success and failure. We just need a reasonable and realistic fiscal approach and stay focused like a laser on improving actual student achievement, not just hoping that we’ll get different results.
I will continue to support real, common sense education reform and improvement. I am ready to work with my colleagues in the Senate in both parties. As always, I welcome any thoughts and ideas that you have as well. I can be reached at [email protected].