Strong Schools Maryland and the Kirwan Commission Recommendations: Dr. Hornbeck Round Table Discussion on Annapolis Day

Dr. David Hornbeck of Strong Schools Maryland discussed the Kirwan Commission in a lively round table dialog with WDC members at WDC’s February 27 Annapolis Advocacy Day. Dr. Hornbeck is a founder of Strong Schools Maryland and was the former Maryland State Superintendent of Schools. Strong Schools Maryland was formed to advocate for a Maryland public school system in which 

  • every student graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in post-secondary education without the need for remediation; 

  • every graduate has the skills and knowledge needed to find satisfaction and earn a living wage; and 

  • every graduate has the knowledge and skills to be an effective citizen. 

The Maryland General Assembly created the Kirwan Commission in 2016 to examine how to ensure that Maryland develops a world class education system. The Kirwan Commission released its Interim Report in January 2019. Dr. Hornbeck described the rationale behind the Kirwan Commission recommendations. Maryland Schools are currently only mediocre; in the most recent NAEP test, Maryland students fell to 23rd in reading and math and 29th in science. Over the last several decades, Maryland students have faced an increase in poverty. Of the 1400 public schools in Maryland, 57 percent have incidences of poverty at 40 percent or above, including 43 percent of Montgomery County schools. Maryland public schools are currently underfunded by at least $2.9 billion, with African American children more likely to attend underfunded schools than white children. 

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, has recently been released, and is codified in HB1413 and SB 1030 – two bills WDC supports. The proposed legislation establishes the principles of the Kirwan recommendations.  It improves support for early childhood education by coordinating services located in the neediest communities and expanding full day prekindergarten for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. It elevates the teaching profession by increasing teacher salaries and increasing the standards for teacher education programs. It also sets the college and career readiness standards to guarantee success in the first year of college and provides additional resources for students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families.

The Kirwan Commission recommendations for funding formulas (which would be a roadmap for funding responsibilities) will not be issued until next year. Some WDC members expressed concern that Montgomery County would lose money since it is wealthier than some other counties in Maryland. Dr. Hornbeck said he thought that would be unlikely since Montgomery County legislators would not agree to a deal in which they got less money. He suggested that it was best to see what the funding proposals were before anticipating a negative financial impact on Montgomery County.

Strong Schools Maryland is lobbying in Annapolis three days a week to build support for legislation and funding for the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. The group has 178 small “Team of Ten” advocacy groups based in 18 of Maryland’s 24 School Districts, including Montgomery County.  Contact Strong Schools Maryland if you are interested in organizing a new Team of Ten. Click here for the Team Leader Interest Form