Maryland State House

(Oct. 4, 2019) The Kirwan Commission’s funding formula workgroup is expected to announce its decision of how to allocate millions of dollars in education money across the state in the next few weeks, Chairman William “Brit” Kirwan said during a meeting last Thursday. 

“I’m also announcing today we need a meeting on Oct. 15, and that will be when we make our final decisions, and that will be in public,” Kirwan said last week. 

The legislation, known as The Blueprint for America’s Future, included proposals for free preschool for 3-and-4-year-olds living at 300 percent below the property level, higher salaries for teachers, college and career readiness standards, vocational education, and allocated funding for counties, according to a February 2019 interim report.

The funding formula workgroup has met periodically since June 20. Recommendations from the funding formula workgroup are due by Nov. 1. 

Members of the funding formula workgroup moved to convene and meet in executive session for the first time during a Sept. 19 meeting. That concerned several officials, including State Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-38).

“I … strongly objected to this decision to work on education funding formulas in secret,” Carozza said in a statement on Sept. 19. “These meetings should be open to the public and not behind closed doors.”

Carozza is a member of the full Kirwan Commission, but not the funding formula workgroup. No Eastern Shore counties are represented in the aforementioned subgroup.

Kirwan addressed the decision during last week’s meeting. 

“First, we made clear that no decision was going to be made other than in public,” Kirwan said.

He said during last week’s meeting that the formula could have “sensitivity to different assumptions” and members wanted to see “what happens with the formula as you change some assumptions” in order to get a better understanding of the formula.

“So the whole process where the decisions are being made will be in the public, and I just wanted to emphasize that point,” Kirwan said last week. 

The Kirwan package approved by the legislature would cost roughly $3.8 billion annually. 

The Senate bill went through without Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature in June. However, Hogan said during the Maryland Association of Counties conference earlier this summer that he couldn’t support the formula because half the monetary burden would fall to the counties in Maryland. 

Hogan added that it would require a 39 percent increase in personal income tax, an 89 percent sales tax increase and a 535 percent property tax increase, which would create an $18 million state deficit.

Carozza also took issue with the workgroup’s ideas of property value-based wealth. 

“The problem with the current formula is that it is more skewed towards property values rather than making an adjustment to incorporate poverty to more equitably distribute school funds to the school systems,” Carozza said in a statement. 

Worcester County receives the second lowest amount of state funding at $4,217 per student and some $26.5 million overall in fiscal year 2019.

Lou Taylor, superintendent of Worcester County Public Schools, said in a previous interview that more than $255 million in state funding for fiscal year 2020 was included as part of aid to education legislation, and of that Worcester County received just $688,000.

Carozza also urged local leaders to bring these concerns to the commission directly. 

“I have been encouraging community and business leaders and local elected officials to share their concerns about the current wealth formula with the commission leadership and why it puts some of our shore counties at a disadvantage,” Carozza said in a statement. 

Kirwan will hold a forum from 6-7:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Oct. 8 in the Guerrieri Hall auditorium of Wor-Wic Community College on 32000 Campus Drive in Salisbury.

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