Community members and leaders from the Frederick County Public School system gathered in the Urbana Fire Hall on Nov. 14 to hear from the Coalition for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. Washington County Board of Education members also attended. Joia Clevinger, a field organizer for Maryland State Education Association, facilitated a community panel.
Clevinger serves eight counties. “As a former teacher,” she said, “I understand the value of public education, and see the work we do as imperative to making sure every child has access to the best education. When our public education system is great, as the cornerstone of our democracy, I believe our world is a better place!”
According to the Coalition for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, Maryland schools are $2.9 billion underfunded per year—an average of $2 million per Maryland school. “The number of children in poverty has doubled since 2002, there is inequitable funding for kids who need more support, and two thirds of jobs require more than a high school diploma,” be it college education or skills training. “That’s why we need a new formula,” Clevinger said.
The Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence was formed to study the needs of Maryland students and analyze how to meet those needs with the “best practices from all over the world. (The commission) released their report of recommendations and the Maryland General Assembly kickstarted most of them (in the bill). … The recommendations help eliminate achievement gaps as well as boost performance for all students.”
The Blueprint includes expanding pre-K, an increase in teacher salaries, and increased mental health staffing and special education staffing. Clevinger values the combination of the recommendations. “It’s so difficult to separate them out and prioritize them because each of the pieces is necessary to build the world-class schools that Maryland students and communities deserve.”
Panelists at the local forum discussed improvements they would like to see within the Frederick County education system. Brunswick High School junior Mia Martinez said, “My main concern is college and career readiness,” explaining that she would like to see more counselors in order to provide students with more career planning and emotional support. She said she was one of 42 students in an Advanced Placement class and that there are portable classrooms outside of her school.
Class size was also a concern of parent and panelist Hebba Hassanein, whose child’s visual arts class at Oakdale Middle School had 42 students.
Panelist and local entrepreneur Jim Racheff, along with his wife, runs DMS, an information science and technology services business that supports the biomedical research and public health field. He is concerned about the long-term economic effects of underfunding.
“Businesses rely on (access) to skilled employees,” he said, “whether those skills are learned in post-secondary academic education or advanced technical and trade training. I have employees that have followed both paths, and both paths rely on having a solid primary and secondary education. “It is not,” he stressed, “a ‘nice-to-have.’
“It is imperative that we invest in education,” he said, later noting that it will “continue to increase in importance when it comes to our kids being able to compete for opportunities that lead to a financially stable and hopefully prosperous life.”
Racheff also wants students to be prepared for globalization and automation. “As technology and the nature of work change rapidly,” he said, “it’s important to my employees to be agile and think critically. Those are attributes that are best learned early in one’s education.”
Clevinger and Coalition for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future advise the Frederick community to contact their Maryland legislators and urge them to make Blueprint funding a top priority in the 2020 legislative session. Clevinger provided the following email addresses:
- Bill Ferguson, president of the Senate: email@example.com
- Adrienne Jones, speaker of the House: firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the bill can be found at Marylandblueprint.org.