As a former Allegany County commissioner, I am proud to have served over two years on the Kirwan Commission (Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education) to help create better education in Maryland. I was appointed to represent the rural counties of the state.

An interim report was submitted in January, offering numerous proposals, all coming with a rather hefty price tag. A subcommittee, The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Funding Formula Workgroup, has now been created to make recommendations for the distribution of funds by local education agencies and between state and local governments. This workgroup will also make recommendations for specific funding formulas.

I am greatly troubled by the makeup of the workgroup, which has only one member to represent the interests of the counties. Since most of this work will focus on how costs will be divided between state and county governments, I would think the group should be better populated by county executives, county administrators, county finance directors and elected county officials. A large financial burden will be placed on the counties to help fund Kirwan Commission proposals, and yet, the workgroup consists mainly of state senators and delegates and education representatives. The counties will be tasked with funding these new unfunded mandates without have an equal voice at the table. Only one member will be representing county interests.

Education is important and must improve in our great state, but the counties that spend over 50% of their budgets on education, should have greater representation on the workgroup. With all teachers receiving a 10% wage increase, and the starting salaries for teachers being increased to $60,000 per year, increases to the counties will be substantial. This workgroup will also decide if full-day pre-kindergarten students and full-day kindergarten students will be added to county education systems. Counties are true funding partners for education, but once again have been closed out of funding discussions. This is the type of action that causes problems between county governments and local boards of education.