Senator Holds Listening Sessions, Talks Education Concerns

Senator Holds Listening Sessions, Talks Education Concerns
State Sen. Mary Beth Carozza talks with residents at a listening session in Ocean Pines. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Sen. Mary Beth Carozza outlined her concerns with the Kirwan Commission’s efforts to revamp the state’s education system this week.

A listening session Carozza hosted in Ocean Pines Monday was highlighted by her comments regarding the Kirwan Commission and its current focus on education funding. Though she’s only recently become a member, she said she’d been paying close attention to the commission since it was created.

“It became very clear to me that the appointment of this Kirwan Commission would absolutely be making major, far reaching education policy and funding decisions,” she said.

Carozza said she agreed with the majority of the commission’s recommendations—such as the emphasis on prekindergarten, better equipping teachers and promoting career and technical education opportunities—but thought financing the commission’s recommendation was going to be a major challenge. Carozza said she and new members of the commission had met with Kirwan Monday and would be attending the entire commission meeting Wednesday.

“I have been very open with my public statements about my overall concerns about the current recommendations,” she said. “I start with the premise that I believe most of my constituents expect us as elected officials to balance both education priorities and non- education priorities. The concern about the proposal as introduced is that the cost when you’re talking about the increases, $3.8 billion in spending on top of what we’re already spending on education…it just becomes an affordability issue.”

She said she also wants to make sure local school systems have the authority they need to implement any changes. Carozza supports prioritizing the commission’s recommendations.

“That’s a way you can come down and prioritize when it comes to spending,” she said.

Carozza said she was worried that because of the state’s wealth formula, Worcester County could be particularly hard hit by the Kirwan recommendations.

“The wealth formula is heavily weighted on property and not income which means it affects the level of funding Worcester receives,” she said. “A lot of that wealth and property income is second homeowners that don’t live here. It distorts our poverty numbers.”

She said she’d heard from county and school system officials who shared that concern but that at this point there was no plan to change the state’s formula.

“At this point it is not part of the recommendations of the funding work group,” she said. “There are some recommendations that would increase assistance to certain low-income areas.”

She said it was not yet clear whether that would benefit Worcester County but that she hoped to get more information in the coming weeks.

“We have to use these meetings and really delve down into the details,” she said.

Carozza is expected to be among the speakers next week at an information  meeting Worcester County officials are holding to discuss the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. The meeting is set for Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. at the Ocean Pines library.

Aside from addressing the issues associated with the Kirwan Commission, Carozza used Monday’s listening session to meet one-on-one with constituents who had concerns. Subjects discussed included  a request for assistance for services for individuals with disabilities and their caregivers, concerns about the siting of aquaculture leases from South Point residents, a request from White Horse Park residents for the county to consider a waiver and other options on residency requirements, support for gun control legislation, support for tax withholding changes for reserve and active duty military Maryland residents and support for more emphasis on career trade technology education.

“I hold what I call listening hours as opposed to a traditional town hall because I find that if I can have some conversations with my constituents leading up to the session that that’s very helpful,” Carozza said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.