Just What Is This Kirwan Commission?

by MCF Director of Public Policy Ann Geddes

You may have seen or read about the Kirwan Commission in the news, but are uncertain about its specifics and how it could impact your family. Here is a brief overview of the origin and focus of this Commission.

In 2016 the Maryland Legislature established the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education to make Maryland’s school system amongst the best in the world. This Commission is often referred to by the name of its Chairman, Dr. Brit Kirwan.

The Kirwan Commission was given two tasks: 1) To make policy recommendations to enable Maryland’s schools to perform at the level of the best-preforming school systems in the world, and; 2) To propose changes to the current funding formulas for schools.

The commission has made a number of recommendations to achieve these goals. It proposes:

  • Full-day education for 3-year-olds from low-income households
  • Universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds
  • Better college and career readiness training
  • Higher salaries for teachers
  • Better teacher training
  • More resources for at-risk students
  • Transparent governance and accountability
  • More money for schools where many students live in poverty

The Commission was to submit its final report to the legislature by December 2018, but it is continuing to work for another year, needing additional time to thrash out funding formulas.

We already know that the current recommendations carry a big price tag, estimated to be $3.8 billion. Some of this money is to come from casino revenues. In the last election, Marylanders overwhelmingly voted for a mandate that required that all casino revenues that had been designated for education actually be used for education. This year, as a start, $200 million was allocated to begin implementing some of the recommendations, and it is anticipated that the Commission will request an additional $125 million for 2019.

The Kirwan Commission’s recommendations undoubtedly will dramatically change pre-K – 12 education in Maryland. Given the high price tag, it remains to be seen what all will be able to be implemented and when.