By Corey Johns.
Without the passage of the Build to Learn Act in Annapolis this coming legislative session, Kirwan funding might be all for naught in Baltimore County.
The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education – nicknamed Kirwan Commission for short – is a road map to positively change the trajectory for Maryland schools and the thousands of students in the state. Even at its large price tag, it is a worthy investment in our future to make sure kids receive the proper education from a young age up until they graduate and that they are in the best position possible to compete in today’s highly competitive economic world, both nationally and globally.
Kirwan is focused on creating Universal Pre-K to provide access to high quality childhood programming for young kids. Kirwan will add more teachers, especially in STEM areas. Kirwan will focus on more college and career readiness pathways. Kirwan would provide more resources for students, such as counselors, mentors, resource officers, and teaching assistants.
All of these advancements would be tremendously helpful to better our schools, but in Baltimore County, most of these initiatives, if not all of them, would be nearly impossible to implement without the passage of the Build to Learn Act that would provide the much-needed funding to the second oldest body of school facilities in the state.
Baltimore County suffers from severe over-crowding issues in inadequate facilities at not only the highly publicized high school level but at the middle and elementary schools as well. Without funding to help improve facilities, there is not going to be space to provide more Pre-K, to have the classrooms for more teachers, to create technical education space, and to provide offices for counselors, resource officers, and mentors.
Pleasant Plains elementary school is 130% over capacity and only has space to serve four groups of half-day Pre-K per year. Every year there are kids stuck on a waiting list that is never fulfilled. Pleasant Plains cannot meet the need for limited Pre-K now, much less implement Universal Pre-K.
At some schools in the Loch Raven and Parkville areas, there have been dressing rooms behind auditorium stages that have been converted into counselor offices. Where would new counselors and resources officers go if they are added to these schools that already have no real space for the staff they have now?
Maryland has an opportunity to regain its former standing as having the best schools in the country year after year by funding Kirwan. But, without facilities money, there just is not going to be enough space to implement enough to properly benefit from Kirwan.
Last legislative session the Build to Learn Act was able to pass the House of Delegate, but failed in the Senate. This year, it must pass both. Baltimore County cannot afford it not to.