@BryanRenbaum

The debate over whether to enact the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission into law kicked off in the House of Delegates on Friday morning with the defeat of an amendment that would have tied student performance to funding for the program.

The amendment was defeated in a 93-41 vote. It was introduced by Del. Jason Buckel (R-Allegany). It was one of six Republican amendments that were defeated as of 1 p.m. EST. Debate on the legislation is expected to continue into the evening. The Senate is expected to consider the legislation next week.

“It suspends the operation of the implementation of Kirwan at the conclusion of FY 2025 if certain performance triggers are not met. The trigger that’s set forth in the amendment…is a fairly simple one. It says that if student performances have not improved by 25 percent by the conclusion of FY 2025,” funding for the program would be reevaluated by the General Assembly, Buckel said in a floor speech.

Buckel said the metric for the measurement of progress would be made by consulting “the academic achievement and academic reporting standards of the Maryland Longitudinal Data System” as well as “nationally accredited tests.”

Buckel said the assessment of  Kirwan should be based on student performance.

“The entire reason all these thousands and thousands of hours and time and billions and billions of dollars are being allocated is for one reason. It should be for one reason, and that is student performance and student outcomes must improve. That’s why we’re here.

“It shouldn’t just be about a discussion of salaries. ‘How much are we paying? How much are we paying this person? How much are we paying that person? What county’s getting the money? What county’s not getting the money?’ ”

Buckel hammered his point home.

“At the end of the day, the purpose of this legislation and the only reason that we should be putting this kind of money from our taxpayers’ pockets into this is if it clearly and rationally improves our students’ educational performance and prepares them for a better life here in the state of Maryland. We have to measure that.”

Del. Ben Barnes (D-Prince George’s-Anne Arundel) objected to Buckel’s amendment, saying it is unnecessary because the legislation already contains accountability provisions.

“We have an accountability implementation board. That board is charged with making sure every county has an implementation plan. That board can withhold money from counties that don’t come up with an implementation plan. That’s something Thornton didn’t do. That board — once you have an implementation plan — can withhold money if you’re not following your implementation plan.

“But this amendment seems to miss totally how the formulas work entirely by saying…’If you’re not where you need to be in three years…we’re gonna cut your funding for the students in this state. That is crazy.”

Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery), who is a former social studies teacher, said he objects to measuring student performance by test scores.

“In terms of the criteria for how we measure student success, it specifically calls out standardized testing. And this body and the U.S. Congress and states across the country have for the last several years pushed back against the educational movement in the early 2000s that said the only thing that matters in schools is how you do on a single standardized test. We’ve said as a body: It’s about a lot more than that… I worry that this amendment will take us back to the bad old days where I was told as a teacher that the only thing that mattered was how my kids were doing on a standardized test.”

On Wednesday night the House defeated a proposal to fund Kirwan that would have expanded the state’s sales tax to more than 80 professional services that currently are not taxed. House lawmakers now are reportedly considering funding Kirwan through nine tax bills that collectively are projected to raise $700 million a year for the program. The proposal is projected to fund the bulk of the program for the next five fiscal years. Kirwan is projected to cost about $32 billion over the next decade.

The legislation — HB1300 and SB1000-Blueprint for Maryland’s Future – Implementation — would, according to its text, authorize “Repealing, altering, and adding certain provisions of law to implement The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. The legislation is “intended to transform Maryland’s early childhood, primary, and secondary education system to the levels of high-performing systems around the world.” It would require the “State and each county to distribute to county boards of education certain amounts of education aid under certain programs in certain fiscal years.”