ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP)- Democrats who control the Maryland General Assembly outlined legislation Tuesday that provides a blueprint to improve education over 10 years, including an expansion of pre-K and teacher raises.
The measure incorporates elements proposed by a state commission that spent more than two years working on a framework to improve early childhood, primary and secondary education.
William "Britt" Kirwan, the former chancellor of the University of Maryland System who chaired the 25-member committee, said the panel made troubling findings. For one, fewer than 40 percent of high school seniors who graduate are considered to be college and career ready. Also, he said, about half of the state's teachers in their second year won't come back for a third. The panel's recommendations are aimed at turning that around.
"Now, of course there are substantial costs to implementing these recommendations, but we also have to think about what are the costs of not doing this," Kirwan said at a news conference. "What will it mean for our state if we don't change the current circumstances?"
Kirwan has estimated that fully implementing the commission's recommendations would cost an estimated $3.8 billion a year in a decade. The panel decided to keep working on how the state and local governments would divide that cost.
Supporters said meeting the goals staked out by the commission will take a sustained and coordinated effort in five main policy areas recommended by the commission, including early support for young children.
The measure proposes free full-day pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families. Increasing teacher salaries to encourage good teachers to stay in classrooms is another component. The measure also calls for improving college and career readiness of high school graduates. The fourth policy area calls for adding resources for students from low-income families and those with disabilities to meet college and career readiness standards. The proposal includes an accountability system for implementing the blueprint.
"It's not going to happen overnight. It's a 10-year phase in with this year's so-called down payment, so it's going to take time ... we've got to have the resources to pay for it and then we have to proceed and make sure every student has the opportunity and the ability for success in the state of Maryland," said Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat and commission member.
House Speaker Michael Busch said the plan calls for setting aside about $500 million for school infrastructure, as well as about $300 million in school operating costs.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said the legislature is working with Gov. Larry Hogan, who has his own proposal on how to use money generated by casinos to pay for school infrastructure.
"We're going to bond money from the casinos, spend it over 30 years - come up with a huge infusion of funds," Miller said.
Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat, said lawmakers already have been operating under the assumption of a looming writedown in revenue estimates, meaning lawmakers still plan to pass the bill - even while they will have less money than previously thought in upcoming budget years.
"The bottom line is once again we are at a juncture in Maryland where we have to say that our public schools are our number one priority," McIntosh said. "Our kids are our number one priority."