Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education Update

Dear District 38 Education Leaders and Stakeholders: 
At my request, the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (Kirwan Commission) will be holding an orientation briefing on Monday, October 28 before the full Commission meets on Wednesday, October 30. The orientation briefing will detail the full Commission’s work and recommendations and I look forward to participating in the two meetings. 
As you may know, for the past couple of years, I have made the extra effort on my own to attend as many of the past full Kirwan Commission and funding workgroup meetings as possible, including my request to attend the September 19th closed, executive session of which I was denied access. I will continue to advocate for full transparency of all Commission proceedings and will oppose any future efforts to conduct Commission business or discussions in closed executive sessions. Public trust in this difficult process is essential as the Commission makes recommendations costing the State and local jurisdictions billions of dollars to implement the new education policies and reforms.
I support the request made by the leadership of the Maryland General Assembly for the Commission to prioritize the programmatic and funding recommendations including the June 20th letter from Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr. and House Speaker Adrienne Jones. I also support the March 29th and September 19th letters that Maryland Senate Republican Caucus leaders sent to Commission leadership outlining concerns about the cost of the Commission’s recommendations and also requested that the Commission prioritize its educational recommendations.
As an elected State Senator and a member of the Kirwan Commission, I strongly believe our constituents expect us to balance the ideal with the possible when it comes to funding our education priorities, including factoring in the reality of the significant local fiscal impacts and balancing education and non-education priorities. I also believe the Kirwan Commission should consider recommendations that give more local authority and flexibility to implement the Commission recommendations in a way that is customized and addresses local affordability issues.
I will continue to support efforts to increase accountability by the tracking of student performance outcomes of past and future education funding. For example, what were the outcomes of the significant increases in education funding under the prior Thornton Commission, and have those outcomes been reviewed in detail by the Kirwan Commission to affect the prioritization and funding levels of the Commission’s new education policies and reforms?  
I will use this orientation to raise an issue for the full Commission to consider as we move forward with future recommendations. The safety and learning environment of students and teachers in the classrooms, schools, and at school-related activities must be addressed and strengthened in order for any future reforms to have successful outcomes. The Kirwan Commission report highlights the need to improve student performance and the current teacher shortage. However, the Commission has not fully addressed one of the key underlying reasons for these shortcomings which is the authority and support that teachers and school personnel need to run their classrooms and school activities. I have read school reports and have heard from too many teachers, substitute teachers, parents and others about the totally unacceptable and sometimes violent behavior in our classrooms and schools. We have repeated situations in our schools where a couple of out of control students are not only a danger to others but are completely disrupting the positive learning environment for the other students. This should not and will not be tolerated.  
As always, if there are specific issues that you would like me to raise or information to provide to the full Commission, please pass it along to me. Thank you for your leadership, and I look forward to hearing from you. 

State Senator – District 38
Somerset, Worcester and Wicomico