Fully fund Maryland public schools.
Provide free and full-day pre-K for high-need three-year-olds and all four year-olds.
Implement community schools that are able to provide a system of supports that ensure students are able to learn well every day.
Develop a statewide tutoring corps to enable teachers to adequately meet the needs of all students through RTI.
Recruit and retain high quality staff
Improve teacher salaries in order to recruit higher-achieving staff.
Provide meaningful opportunities for teachers to continue their education.
Train teachers in the latest, research-backed methods and give them more time out of the classroom to do so.
Provide the time and resources for teachers to learn from each other.
Develop a comprehensive and engaging curriculum
A strong, well-rounded curriculum includes math, science, english, foreign language, computer science, social studies, and the arts.
Robust after school learning programs including arts, robotics, debate, sports, and study hall.
Repeal the Labor Day mandate and create options for year-round learning or an expanded schedule in an effort to reduce the summer slump.
Align career pathways with modern workforce needs
Expand apprenticeship opportunities at all schools
Work to develop a standard for literacy so that high school graduates will read at the standard of a first-year student at an average Maryland institution of higher learning.
Provide the opportunity for every student to graduate high school with a qualification in computer science.
Fund Baltimore City Schools Capital Improvement Projects up front and in full.
Free community college and debt-free college for Marylanders at Maryland institutions.
Establish a governance system that ensures accountability for this plan to be implemented.
Education is supposed to be the great equalizer. But in Baltimore, it either provides a great advantage or consigns a child to poverty for his or her entire life. Students who go to poor schools don’t get the necessary tools to be successful in the workforce or in higher education. A child’s school should be working to lift them up out of poverty, not holding them there. Our schools in Baltimore face a structural budget gap that has built up over the last decade and amounted to three hundred and fifty-eight million dollars in Fiscal Year 2015. The state has a constitutional responsibility to ensure equitable and adequate education for all students and it has a long history of failing to live up to that obligation.
Our schools should prepare every graduate for the next stage of their life, be it college or the workforce. Our schools should engage every part of the student. Our schools should support students’ whole lives. Our schools need to be better because we all do better when our schools do better.
Fortunately, the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence (“The Kirwan Commission”) is currently engaging in a reimagination of public education in the state of Maryland. Their recommendations will go before the Maryland General Assembly during the 2019 session. That means that who we elect during these 2018 elections will determine who is at the table when decisions are made about how an entire generation of young people will experience public schools in the state of Maryland.
Better schools require more money, well spent. The initial findings of the Kirwan Commision suggest that Maryland has underfunded its schools by almost three billion dollars. At the same time, the Governor has quibbled over spending two and a half million for emergency repairs in Baltimore schools. Our state government is refusing to raise and spend the resources that our schools need and instead it blames local government. Baltimore City, compared to other large jurisdictions, has greater responsibilities and lower tax revenue. The 41st District and Baltimore City need the state to step up and deliver the resources our students need so they can rise up out of poverty.
Better schools require well-trained teachers. In the United States we have assumed that just having teachers in front of students is the best way to make them better at teaching. Almost every other developed country allows teachers significant time away from the classroom to participate in specialized, effective trainings and to learn from each other. We need to treat teachers like the professionals they are and compensate them accordingly. With better pay and more effective training our schools can recruit even better teachers. Teaching is like everything else; mastering it requires hours and hours of structured practice.
The range of subjects offered in schools has narrowed significantly, especially in elementary schools and schools serving areas of concentrated poverty. This short-changes our teachers and our students. Our students perform better when they are learning across different disciplines and using all of their abilities. Teaching a robust curriculum allows our students to learn math from music, geometry from art, and literacy from history. Students who enjoy their classes are more likely to go school and therefore more likely to graduate and less likely to commit crimes.[10,11] But our students don’t just need a more holistic curriculum, they need more time in school. We must repeal and replace Governor Hogan’s backwards Labor Day mandate with calendar flexibility that enables school districts to increase, not reduce, students’ time in school.
Every single student should graduate from high school with the ability to either succeed at a college, or university or enter the workforce and find a fulfilling job. Maryland public schools should develop clear standards for literacy and numeracy that must be attained before students receive a high school diploma. A diploma should be more than a certificate of attendance, it should be a certification of recognized accomplishments. All students in the state should have the opportunity to demonstrate that they have attained these qualifications by the tenth grade. A student who attained these qualifications early could use their remaining time to complete more enriching coursework, such as an apprenticeship or college-level work.
In order for students to reach towards the American dream, they need to be trained in specific skills that prepare them for good-paying jobs. Building career-aligned pathways for our students means we have to provide more access to job training programs and apprenticeships in all of our schools. Building these pathways also means including high-level computer science content in our curriculum. Students should be able to graduate with a certification in computer science. There are currently half a million unfilled technology jobs in the United States, and that number is expected to grow. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to prepare our children for the jobs of tomorrow right out of high school.
It is imperative that a school system also provide students more support than their daily slate of classes. Many students in City Schools are years behind grade level. Currently, many guidance counselors and social workers are split between multiple schools with caseloads exceeding, in some cases 900 students. This fractures their ability to build meaningful relationships and sustained support for students and school communities. We should follow best practices and ensure that there is 1 guidance counselor per 250 students and 1 social worker per 250 students.[16,17] We also need early identification and intervention processes such as RTI (response to intervention) to ensure that students that fall behind don’t stay behind. RTI features ongoing data monitoring and analysis and multi-tiered interventions to enable struggling learners to meet age appropriate benchmarks. RTI is a best practice that must be adopted in every school. And, when implemented properly, RTI has the potential to significantly reduce the number of students referred to special education. This saves districts resources, and allows special education to shift focus from technical compliance to effective instruction for those who truly need to be in special education.
In order for RTI to be scaled, however, we need a statewide tutoring corps that will help teachers produce these interventions. Tiers 2 and 3 of RTI require one-on-one tutoring or small group instruction to students who have been identified for additional instruction. This, however, can be difficult if not impossible for a single instructor to accomplish with a class of 25 to 30 students. That’s why tutors are necessary to support RTI and our students. Increasing our graduation rate in Maryland by just 3% could generate $48 million in GDP. Maryland should explore creating an opportunity compact, through private funding, for the procurement of tutoring services, particularly as it relates to special education. Such a financing mechanism could save the state money by reducing the strain on special education programs, improve educational outcomes, and strengthen our economy.
Additionally, all of our schools should be community schools so they can provide the level of services students and families need to stay healthy, succeed in class and be supported at home. Schools should be one-stop shops for children and families, including access to computers with fast internet that are accessible to students and families, academic enrichment and tutoring so students can stay on track, arts and cultural enrichment to support the whole student, health and wellness activities such as after school sports and cooking lessons, and adult and community programming such as GED classes and employment programs. Funding should allow for school-based health centers to do more than provide band-aids and call home. School-based health centers staffed with registered nurses and pediatricians can save taxpayer dollars by reducing hospital visits, save families money by reducing medical bills, keep families at work, and keep kids in class.
We also need to make pre-K free and full-day for all four year-olds, as well as high-need three year-olds. In the first five years of life parents pay as much in childcare costs as they would for college tuition.[23,24] The wealth of a student’s family should not dictate whether their education begins at five or starts years earlier. Expanding pre-K will allow parents to stay in work and students to be better prepared for school.
Additionally, it is past time that we made sure every Maryland student can attend community college for free, and can graduate from a four-year Maryland institution without debt. Receiving a post-secondary degree is still one of the surest ways to improve one’s socioeconomic status. Requiring the most needy students to take out mountains of debt in order to access high-wage jobs sets families back and hurts our economy. Debt-free college is the future we must be working toward. Student debt holds families back from buying homes, starting businesses, getting married, and contributing to our economy. This is an urgent priority.
In order to ensure that this comprehensive reimagination of public education occurs in alignment with the vision outlined above we need to create a new system of governance to oversee its implementation. We simply cannot invest more resources without accountability that it is well spent. There must be funding tied to the implementation of specific practices, such as professional development, guidance counselor and social worker ratios, community schools, RTI, tutoring, expanded pre-k, and debt-free college.
In Maryland the state government is responsible for the bulk of education funding. It’s high time the state stopped blaming local governments for their schools’ poor performance. It is ultimately the responsibility of the Maryland state government to make sure that its own children receive a quality education that prepares them for life after high school. We can’t let the state continue to allow so many of its children and their families to be mired in poverty. Our schools should drive upward mobility and the state needs to demonstrate leadership to make that happen.
3 Final Report of the Study of Adequacy of Funding of Education in Maryland. Prepared for the Maryland State Department of Education by APA Consulting. November 30, 2016, p. 109.
4 Maryland State Board of Education, et al. v. Keith A. Bradford et al., 2004 MD App. FindLaw (2005).
5 Final Report of the Study of Adequacy of Funding of Education in Maryland. Prepared for the Maryland State Department of Education by APA Consulting. November 30, 2016, p. 110.
6 Witte, Brian. “Hogan Announces $2.5M to Help Heat Baltimore Schools,” The Associated Press. January 8, 2018.
7 Abrams, Samuel E, The Mismeasure of Teaching Time. New York City: Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education, Teachers College, Columbia University. January, 2015, p. 1.
8 ibid, p. 13.
9 U.S. Department of Education, NCES 2012-014, p. 5, 21, 28, 34, 40, 43, 46.
10 Taylor, Vicki. Student Engagement Literature Review. York, United Kingdom: The Higher Education Academy, November 2010, p. 34.
11 Machin, Stephen, Olivier Marie, and Sunčica Vujić, The Crime Reducing Effects of Education. Bonn, Germany: Institute for the Study of Labor. June 2010, p. 21-22.
12 Allen, Ashley Batts, Erika A. Patall, and Harris Cooper, Extending the School Day or School Year: A Systematic Review of Research (1985-2009). Washington, D.C.: The American Educational Research Association, September 2010, p. 416-419.
13 Tucker, Marc. 9 Building Blocks for a World-Class Education System. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education and the Economy, 2016.
14 Smith, Megan, “Computer Science for All,” The White House Blog, The White House, January 30, 2016.
15 Richman, Talia, “Baltimore sees decline in school counselor positions,” The Baltimore Sun, March 1, 2018.
16 ASCA National Model: A Framework For School Counseling Programs, Alexandria, VA: American School Counselor Association.
17 School Social Workers Helping Students Succeed: Recommended School Social Worker to Student Ratios, London, KY: School Social Work Association of America. March 10, 2013.
18 “What is RTI?.” RTI Action Network.
19 Coyne, M.D., D.C. Simmons, O.M. Kwok, S. McDonagh, B.A. Harn, and E.J. Kame’enui. “Indexing Response to Intervention. A longitudinal Study of Reading Risk from Kindergarten Through Third Grade.” Journal of Learning Disabilities Vol. 41, issue 2 (2008), p. 30-31.
20 “The Graduation Effect.” The Graduation Effect. The Alliance for Excellent Education.
21 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Public Education Funding Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation, USCCR, Washington, D.C., 2018, p. 62-66.
22 Richman, Talia. “School-based health center works to keep kids in class, out of emergency rooms.” The Baltimore Sun. February 9, 2018.
23 Lobosco, Katie. You’ll Probably Pay at Least $57,000 to Send Your Kid to College. CNN Money, CNN. May 1, 2017.
24 Cost of Raising a Child Calculator. U.S. Department of Agriculture. OMB Number 0584-0535.
25 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Public Education Funding Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation, USCCR, Washington, D.C., 2018, p. 72-74.
26 Fullwiler, Scott, Stephanie Kelton, Catherine Ruetschlin, and Marshall Steinbaum, The Macroeconomic Effects of Student Debt Cancellation. Annandale-On-Hudson, NY: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, February 2018, p. 7.
27 Maryland State Board of Education, et al. v. Keith A. Bradford et al., 2004 MD App. FindLaw (2005).