A landmark education bill that outlines a plan to reshape Maryland’s public school system and sends an additional $855 million to schools over the next two years will become law without Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature.
In a letter to presiding officers, Hogan said he would allow the bill, which adopts recommendations made by the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, to become law despite having “serious concerns.”
Hogan (R) said the legislation lacks a long-term funding source and enough accountability to prevent “highly funded but failing and underperforming schools.”
“I have significant reservations about your short-sighted methods for implementing the Kirwan Commission’s final recommendations — namely that they will lead to massive increases in expenditures without providing the fiscal safeguards and much-needed accountability our students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve,” Hogan wrote.
Hogan also announced Wednesday that he released $255 million in additional education funding for fiscal 2020, money that will pay for the initial implementation of the recommendations.
Over the next two years, the funding will pay for school-based health centers, grants for schools where at least 80 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, raises for teachers — the state will provide a 1.5 percent raise if the local district gives 3 percent — and grants to improve teacher standards.
The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence, also known as the Kirwan Commission, was asked in 2016 to devise a plan to create a world-class school system in Maryland and ensure that all students, regardless of race and ethnicity, are “college- and career-ready” by 10th grade.
This year, it provided the legislature with a 10-year plan that will cost nearly $4 billion by 2030.
The Kirwan Commission also was charged with coming up with funding formulas to pay for the plan, but the panel released its recommendations this year without a breakdown of how the state and local governments would share the costs.
Hogan’s decision to allow the bill to become law without his signature does not come as a surprise. The governor has been vocal in his criticism of the price tag of the plan.
Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), a member of the panel, said the bill passed by the General Assembly is a “modest down payment” on the 10-year plan.
“Over 10 years, the plan is very extensive and it will be expensive,” he said. “This was to get us started.”
The panel’s recommendations include expanding early-childhood education, increasing teacher pay, boosting spending on special education and grants to high-poverty schools.
Pinsky said he was pleased the governor is allowing the bill to move forward but was confused by his criticism that it lacks accountability.
“We don’t give much flexibility in how it’s spent,” Pinsky said of the money.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) told Hogan in a letter that they were disappointed that he didn’t sign the bill. They invited him to a hearing this fall to discuss long-term funding.
Pinsky worries that Hogan’s reluctance to fully embrace the plan could signal a major battle ahead.
“We’re going to have to raise revenue and that is going to be a challenge,” Pinsky said. “But I believe it will be worth it. It will raise our tax base and we’ll have more well-rounded students. I think this really can raise the bar and at the same time close the gap.”