Gov. Larry Hogan is facing backlash after criticizing the Kirwan Commission and questioning where funding for their recommendations will come from.
The governor, who called the work of the commission “half-baked,” said at a conference of county officials earlier this month that the proposals would require “billions and billions more in mandated spending increases for county and state taxpayers.”
After his remarks, both the Kirwan Commission and Strong Schools Maryland, a grassroots organization that advocates for public education, criticized the governor, saying he was attacking the commission instead of working with them.
“It is surprising and disappointing that Gov. Hogan attacked the work of his commission whose sole purpose is to create the blueprint for how to make Maryland public schools the best in the world,” Joe Francaviglia, Strong Schools Maryland’s executive director, said in a statement. “This is about the future of our state; we do not have time for political games.”
Frederick County Public Schools has been working to implement a few of the proposals, including working to support reading intervention and expanding full-day prekindergarten programs across the county, according to Schools Superintendent Terry Alban.
Both Alban and Board of Education member Joy Schaefer served on the commission. Schaefer said she was taken aback by the governor’s comments.
“I am shocked that he called our recommendations half-baked,” Schaefer said. “For three years and four months ... we have heard from experts, looked at research, and deliberated. ... There’s no way any of this is half-baked.”
The Kirwan Commission was formed in 2016 to make recommendations on improving education across Maryland. So far, the commission has called for increasing teacher pay and providing full-day prekindergarten for low-income families, among other proposals.
The total cost would be $3.8 billion a year as all the proposals are implemented over the next decade. The commission continued to meet this summer to find and recommend funding formulas.
Hogan has said the Maryland Department of Budget and Management estimates paying for the proposals would require a 39 percent increase in the personal income tax, an 89 percent increase in the sales tax, or a 535 percent increase in the property tax.
“They took this action without any regard to funding formulas and with absolutely no plan whatsoever for how any of your counties or the state taxpayers could possibly pay for any of it,” Hogan said at the conference.
State Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore city) said the commission has been working with the understanding that funding suggestions would be needed.
“Of course we have to pay for it. Of course it’s going to be challenging. But what we have to do is lead, and we lead by setting forth a plan,” Ferguson said.
“It’s just funny because nobody ever tasked the commission to come up with funding. We took that on ourselves to be proactive without putting out costs and not knowing where the funds are coming from,” Schaefer said.
As the commission’s all-day meetings continued last week, the governor’s office reiterated its skepticism.
“We have heard nothing today from partisan legislators to suggest they have a real plan, a strategy or even an inkling of how to fund the Kirwan blueprint,” Kata Hall, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said in a statement.
The Kirwan Commission is expected to release its recommendations for funding in September.
“We are hopeful that the governor will meet us halfway,” Schaefer said. “[Because] these changes need to happen. ... This is the kind of investment that will benefit Maryland.”