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Maryland workgroup meets privately on school funding formula

By BRIAN WITTESeptember 19, 2019

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Maryland panel weighing recommendations about spending billions of dollars more on education voted Thursday to move their discussion from a public meeting to behind closed doors.

The workgroup focusing on how state and local governments would split new costs for K-12 education is preparing to make tough decisions about what they will recommend.

William Kirwan, who chairs the 25-member Commission on Innovation and Excellence, described the closed setting as “purely a working meeting where decisions will not be made.”

“I personally think it would be a disservice to the public to see numbers that will have no real meaning, and it would be very confusing to see iterations that people would get all excited or upset over information that will never come to be,” Kirwan said.

David Brinkley, Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget secretary, was one of several panel members who objected to closing the discussion.

“When we as a group are going to have these conversations, it should be under the scrutiny with the public being able to review it,” Brinkley said.

Kirwan responded: “And they will be when we come to the time we have to make decisions.”

One member of the full commission, Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, said she asked to participate and was turned down by the commission leadership.

A letter from the attorney general’s office said the workgroup does not fall under the definition of a public body and is not subject to the Open Meetings Act.

The commission has been tasked with making recommendations in five major policy areas. Those include investing in early childhood education and increasing teacher pay. The others are implementing rigorous curricula, proving more support to struggling schools and creating accountability for underperformance.

Fully implementing the commission’s recommendations would cost an estimated $3.8 billion a year in a decade.

The General Assembly approved legislation in April to begin implementing some of the recommendations with about $1.1 billion over three years as a down payment on a long-term spending plan.

However, the commission put off decisions on the difficult matter of how state and local governments would divide future costs. The workgroup, which includes some members of the full commission as well as others, was formed to grapple with the funding formula and make recommendations this fall.

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