ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Maryland commission won’t finish recommendations on new funding formulas for K-12 education in time for legislative action next year, delaying a major effort to increase the formulas for the first time since 2002 and disappointing supporters.
The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education had been aiming to recommend policies and funding formulas before the General Assembly gathers next month for its 90-day session to give lawmakers a chance to adopt them next year. However, House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller wrote of the delay in a letter released at a commission meeting.
They wrote it would have been difficult for lawmakers in one session to finish work on both the policy framework of the panel’s recommendations and how to distribute added costs between the state and local jurisdictions.
“Given the breadth of the Commission’s charge and the rigor and thoroughness with which the Commission has addressed its charge, we understand that it is virtually impossible for the formulas to be completed in time for action during the 2019 Legislative Session,” Busch and Miller, both Democrats, wrote.
Miller and Busch wrote that they look forward to receiving the commission’s report in January with funding priorities for fiscal year 2020 and a policy blueprint that could be outlined in legislation in the upcoming session.
Earlier this month, the panel released a preliminary estimate of $4.4 billion in total increases costs per year to implement its recommendations about a decade from now. The commission focused on four main areas, including early childhood education such as pre-K programs. The other areas include elements such as teacher pay, college and career readiness and additional resources for at-risk students.
To help pay for the initiative, lawmakers had been hoping to use state proceeds from casino gambling that now must be spent on education under a recently approved constitutional amendment.
Del. Maggie McIntosh, one of the commission 25-members, said a plan by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan would steer the money largely into school construction, rather than the broad policy goals outlined by the commission. McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who also chairs the House Appropriations Committee, noted the unusually strong budget powers of Maryland’s governor as an impediment to creating higher funding formulas now.
“We could sit here today and come up with a billion dollars worth of stuff to spend next year and make those recommendations, but unless the governor adds it in or unless we figure something out quickly, it would never happen,” McIntosh said.
Hogan has announced plans to create a $3.5 billion fund for school construction over five years. When he announced the plan earlier this month, he said the state already had received $3.7 billion in funding requests, and his proposal would be able to fulfill nearly all of those requests. Hogan also estimated the proposal would create about 27,000 construction jobs over the next five years.
In their letter, Miller and Busch cited comments Hogan had made about the large cost of the commission’s proposal and wrote, “it appears that we have more work to do to convince the Governor that these generational changes are worth undertaking.”
Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said the governor supports investing in schools in a way that is fiscally responsible and incorporates strong accountability measures.
“He looks forward to working with the legislature to achieve this shared goal — it’s disappointing that the presiding offices are engaging in a blame game that flies in the face of the facts to cover for their legislative committee failing to get the job done,” Chasse said.
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