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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Teachers to mount lobbying campaign to back Kirwan spending

Maryland State Education Association president Cheryl Bost (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Maryland State Education Association president Cheryl Bost (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

The state’s largest teachers’ union will take to the airwaves and internet to bolster public support for a proposed increase in public school education in Maryland.

The Maryland State Education Association said it plans to spend $500,000 in online, broadcast and cable ads starting Monday morning aimed at highlighting the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. The announcement comes at the same time that Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, is expected to mount his own public relations campaign opposing the plan to increase public education spending to $4 billion annually within a decade.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to expand career and technical education programs, increase educator pay, better support struggling learners and students with special needs, hire more educators, and more equitably fund schools,” said Cheryl Bost, president of the teachers’ union. “The General Assembly took the first step last year with its near-unanimous, bipartisan vote to pass the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future which adds funding for the next three years. This year we must pass a long-term funding plan that will create lasting educational equity and a more prosperous future for our state.”

The three-week ad run on television, cable and digital platforms comes as a work group moves closer to making recommendations to the Kirwan Commission on how to fund its educations to reform and improve public education and how those costs should be shared between state and local governments.

Included in the plan are recommendations to hire additional teachers statewide and increase salaries.

Under the Kirwan recommendations, public school systems would seek to hire and retain highly trained and nationally certified teachers — paying them $60,000 to $80,000 annually — as well as fund mandatory pre-K programs for poor families and improve curriculum for students to make them college- or career-ready by the 10th grade. The plan also calls for closing achievement gaps between white and minority students and for accountability measures that Kirwan said would tie funding to performance.

The plan comes with a high price tag — $3.8 billion annually, before inflation adjustments, when it is fully phased in over the next decade. Most of that funding — about $3 billion — would be front-loaded into the first three years under the current scenario.

Over the course of the next decade, the plan calls for more than $2.7 billion to be spent on teachers including salary increases, hiring more pre-kindergarten teachers and additional preparation time for teachers.

The teacher’s union represents more than 74,000 teachers statewide.

Between Nov. 1 and April 30, the union reported spending more than $780,000 on lobbying and in March organized a rally near the State House urging lawmakers to adopt the education plan and related spending.

That proposal and how to pay for it will be a key issue in the coming 2020 session.

The Kirwan Commission has not called for tax hikes to cover the costs, but some Democrats have publicly said new revenues will likely be needed.

Hogan, a second term Republican, has seized on those comments. He has repeatedly said he believes the education plan is financially unsustainable and will result in massive increases in the state’s income, sales or property taxes.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that Hogan is seeking to raise $2 million through his Super PAC to wage a public relations campaign against the Kirwan plan and, ostensibly, the majority Democratic legislature.

Hogan, in a speech to local government leaders in Ocean City, vowed to block any tax increases related to the education plan.

On Monday morning, the union released a memo highlighting results of a poll of 500 registered voters that it commissioned. The poll was conducted September 9-11.

In those results, 71 percent of those surveyed said teachers are underpaid and that they favor plans to “significantly increase school funding.” About 62 percent said the state spends too little on K-12 education, according to the polling memo from Washington, D.C.-based GBAO Strategies, a polling and strategic consulting firm that works for Democratic and progressive organizations.

The poll is nearly identical to a survey also released Monday by Goucher College. Mileah Kromer, director of the poll, said Marylanders typically favor public education spending. About 74 % even said they’d personally be willing to pay more in taxes to improve public schools.

Still, nearly 80% had little or no idea about the Kirwan Commission, its proposals or potential costs.

“There is evidence of support, but it needs to be activated, and if advocates want to activate it they need to make the case,” said Kromer. “This question was asked without a specific price tag, and we will see what the spending numbers look like when the price tag looks more clear.”

 


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