Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, who represents the Germantown area on the County Council, has been named to the 2016 State Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. Rice also chairs the Council’s Education Committee and chairs the education subcommittee of the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo). The commission, which was created by the Maryland General Assembly, will lead the first major review of education funding in the state since the Thornton Commission’s review more than a decade ago.
“In every county in Maryland, funding for education drives creation of the annual operating budget,” said Rice. “I am honored to be able to serve on a commission that will not only examine how much funding is needed to make Maryland one of the nation’s top states in education but also how that funding can most effectively be directed for maximum benefit of our students.”
MACo is entitled to two representatives on the commission under the legislation. In addition to Councilmember Rice, Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s education subcommittee vice chair, will represent MACo.
Education funding represents a large percentage of county budgets in Maryland. In total, counties provided $7.8 billion of operating funding to school boards in Fiscal Year 2016, representing 49 percent of all counties’ general fund budgets.
In 2002, an American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland lawsuit brought on behalf of under-served schoolchildren was a catalyst for a statewide review of education funding adequacy. That review was undertaken by a legislatively-appointed commission, commonly called the “Thornton Commission” after its chair, Alvin Thornton.
Many of the Thornton Commission’s recommendations were incorporated into the “Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act of 2002,” a plan intended to increase statewide education funding by $1.1 billion over five years. One element of the Bridge to Excellence Act was a second review of the State’s education funding. The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education is that second review.
The commission is tasked to make recommendations in a number of areas including:
• Appropriate enrollment counts for counties with increasing and declining enrollment as well as for economically disadvantaged children.
• Expansion of prekindergarten and funding for prekindergarten and other early childhood education programs.
• Equity in school finance and local wealth measures; the regional cost of education index.
• Education finance formulas (including base funding for all students and weighting of funding for students with special needs) and accountability measures.
• The effects of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act on education in the State.
• Better preparing students for postsecondary education, the workforce, and the global economy.
• The efficiency and effectiveness of local school system spending of education funds.
• State laws promoting collaboration between county governments and local school systems.
• The impact of high concentrations of poverty on local school systems.
• The availability of innovative educational opportunities.
• The adequacy and equity of State funding for prekindergarten through grade 12 of public education in the State.
The first meeting of the Commission will is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 29 and the commission is scheduled to issue reports in December 2016 and December 2017.