One of the most important issues that we will consider in the upcoming General Assembly session will be the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, which has been considering potential changes to educational policy in Maryland. The Commission published a list of recommended policy changes earlier this year, and I have concerns over the significant increase in spending that would be required to implement what has been proposed.
The Kirwan Commission’s task has been to examine our state’s education system. Our task as legislators is to consider all of our state’s needs when making policy. This includes education, but also issues such as public safety, health, and transportation as well as the need to have a competitive economic climate that encourages people and businesses to come to and stay in Maryland. We must also consider the impact that this plan would have on county governments, which would be expected to pay for some of this increased spending. Our county governments also have to respond to a variety of needs and often do not have the funding needed to address them. This situation is made worse when state legislators pass spending mandates onto local jurisdictions.
In the last legislative session, I voted to enact some of the policies that were recommended by the Commission because I believed they were being implemented in a fiscally responsible manner and included more accountability for the use of education funds. However, I am concerned about how the spending that would be required to move forward with the Commission’s full report would impact our state’s long-term fiscal condition. It is difficult to see how the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations can be funded while still addressing other priorities without passing significant tax increases on Marylanders at both the state and county levels.
I serve as a member of the Senate’s Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, which will consider what changes to make to Maryland’s education policy as a result of the Commission’s final report.
Earlier this year, I joined my Senate Republican colleagues in submitting a letter to the Commission requesting that they prioritize their recommendations before submitting them to the General Assembly. This would allow us to consider adjustments to the implementation of these proposals to reflect the fiscal needs of the state and our county governments.
Improving education in St. Mary’s and Calvert Counties is one of my priorities in the Senate, and I will give the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations careful consideration. However, we must recognize the fiscal challenges posed by implementing these proposals and the impact that it would have on our taxpayers, our county governments, and other needs that we will need to address in next year’s session and in future years.