Kirwan Assessed – A No Nonsense Evaluation

The Kirwan Commission has not delivered on innovative solutions to make Maryland schools a world class system.

The recommendations for pre-K programs, higher pay for teachers, a greater emphasis on trade and career-related programs cannot be considered innovative. There are no recommendations on how the education of our children can be improved by the new forms of technology available both in the private and public sectors. The recommendations appear to apply 20th century thinking for a 21st century society.

Kirwan’s recommendations rely heavily on a huge infusion of funding.

Kirwan’s predecessor, the Thornton Commission, applied the same approach – more and more funding – resulting in enacting a Maintenance of Effort law, a formula based on per pupil funding and not on per pupil results. One of the unfortunate consequences of mandating a funding formula for all of Maryland’s counties is in effect forcing a square peg into a round hole. Counties have different needs, different income bases, different economies and differ greatly in size and student populations. Neither commission mandated goals, results and timelines. Goals were amorphous, lofty and aspirational with no accountability. Where are the results? Has the achievement gap closed or even narrowed? Without specific goals and delineated responsibility, Kirwan’s promises of success ring hollow.

Would Competition Improve our Schools?

If a public charter school fails, we shutter it. If a public (non-charter) school fails, we do not. Is this a recipe for success? History shows that we respond to competition. It stimulates innovation and responds to the desires of the market. Before accepting Kirwan as gospel, we should consider all of the alternatives – public, charter, private and home schooling to mention a few. Why are per pupil costs considerably lower for charter schools than non-charter schools? What other projects in other states have been successful? Do we need Education Savings Accounts that could fund any of the alternatives?

Are Kirwan’s Funding Recommendations Affordable?

Maryland’s taxpayers are already burdened with some of the highest taxes in the nation. Our income taxes alone are the second highest after New York (Tax Foundation). Given that, is the Kirwan price tag of $4 billion a year realistic? Is burdening counties with additional taxes to chase amorphous goals what you consider fair and wise? And let’s not forget that Kirwan is a 10-year plan which will eventually total $40 billion. Current Maryland spending on public schools is among the highest in the nation. How much more do we need to spend to produce negligible results?

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