Dear District 6:

This week, I would like to address the Kirwan Commission’s recommended changes to our education system. It is widely known that a good education is a fundamental factor for success. With that in mind, the Kirwan Commission was created to address this issue and others.

Kirwan pinpointed several shortcomings in our public education system and made recommendations on how to fix them. One of the most important aspects of their recommendations was the $4 billion per year price tag. Even though some of the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations are deserving of increased funding, the $4 billion increase must be looked at very carefully. We cannot make the automatic conclusion that spending more money will give the results expected.

There are several concerns I have about the proposed assumptions of the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations. First, the Commission assumes that low pay is the reason that teachers are leaving the profession in droves. However, according to a poll by NBC, an overwhelming majority of teachers (70%) cited stress, lack of support, and lack of discipline in the classroom as the reasons they are leaving.

Increasing spending will not fix years of policies and laws that have taken away teacher discretion and made some school environments places where teachers do not want to work and children cannot learn.

Secondly, the Kirwan Recommendations assume that the entire state has fallen below an acceptable standard in education, and therefore all of the Kirwan recommendations must be fully funded immediately.

However, some schools are doing well and some are not. So, we have to ask ourselves if it would be more efficient to achieve our goals of obtaining better results if we place in order what we think needs changing.

The third concern is the concentration of poverty funding. This funding goes to areas that have concentrated low income students into schools. It is very important to provide funding for this area, but we must be careful not to create a negative precedent that encourages a county or city to redraw its school district lines to move more money into its districts.

Finally, the biggest concern is how to pay for the Kirwan recommendations. I absolutely cannot see how Kirwan can be fully implemented without raising taxes, fees, and cutting current services. We must have a good education system in our state, and that is what I am pushing for. But we must also be willing to address these concerns and find an acceptable way to pay for it. We have to find a way to let our teachers teach and help our students learn.

As we work toward meeting these challenges, if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas, please contact my office at johnnyray.salling@senate.state.md.us.

Sincerely,

Senator Johnny Ray Salling

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