Kirwan Passes Both Chambers

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The efforts to #flattenthecurve of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, meant that the General Assembly suspended the Maryland legislative session in mid-March and this has increased the speed at which the legislature has worked to pass their most important bills. The Blueprint bill, commonly referred to as Kirwan, passed both chambers of the General Assembly and now waits on Governor Hogan’s desk for his signature. This landmark bill overhauls Maryland’s education system first by demanding greater state and local spending on education. BTU executive board member Corey Gaber penned a well-received op-ed piece noting the inadequacy of current state education funding, and particularly its effect on Baltimore.

Efforts from the Baltimore Teachers Union, AFT-Maryland, and other coalition partners working to improve education across the state helped get this legislation across the finish line. Among the highlights, the Blueprint bill expands access statewide for Pre-K, allocates more funding and resources for schools serving students from communities with high concentrations of poverty and English language learners, expands career technical education for high school students, and increases teachers’ pay and career opportunities.

There were last minute amendments to the bill that gave pause to those optimistic that funding issues for Maryland students would be solved. Projections suggest that the state will spend nearly $3 billion on education in 2030 however, if state revenue estimates drop by more than 7.5% in a given year, the state and local jurisdictions would have a limit on their contribution. This gives pause because full funding for the Thornton formula (“Bridge to Excellence” Act, 2002) was undercut by the national recession in 2008. Appropriations chair Del. Maggie MacIntosh has dubbed this the ‘coronavirus amendment’ because she sees it as a stopgap in the event something like the new coronavirus comes along and disrupts the economy.

At this point, the Governor can sign the bill, veto the bill, or do nothing and allow it to go into effect. He has been a vocal critic of the Blueprint bill despite multiple cabinet members sitting on the Kirwan commission. It remains to be seen what he will do.