SNOW HILL – In a show of solidarity, Worcester County’s elected officials and school system leaders joined together to express their education funding concerns to the Kirwan Commission.
More than a dozen Worcester County representatives, including county staff, commissioners and Worcester County Public Schools officials, traveled to testify in front of the Kirwan Commission. The commission solicited public input Tuesday as it prepares to make final recommendations regarding Maryland’s education system.
“I really think it was about unity,” Commissioner Chip Bertino said. “Coming together as a community to speak with one voice, that was extraordinary.”
Bertino, surrounded by the delegation of local representatives, spoke on behalf of the group Tuesday in front of the commission. He discussed the disparity of the state’s current education funding formula, which has local taxpayers funding 75% of the school system’s budget—more than any other public school jurisdiction in the state. He told commission members that because they’d worked the current formula into their recommendations, there would be no relief for Worcester County.
“Time will tell if it made a difference,” Bertino said Wednesday.
He applauded, however, the fact that so many educators and county staff members had cleared their schedules to make the trip to Annapolis.
“I think it demonstrated at least to the commission members that folks in Worcester take our county seriously,” he said.
Bertino felt it was critical for the county to express its concern regarding the state’s education funding formula since the Kirwan Commission had brought attention to the issue.
“The Kirwan Commission recommendations will make our situation in Worcester County worse, not better,” he said. “Not to say we don’t agree with the commission from a curricular standpoint. That’s another issue. A lot of it we’re already doing.”
Beth Shockley-Lynch, president of the Worcester County Teachers Association, agreed that the commission’s overall recommendations weren’t the problem.
“All those things are great but they’re going to require money,” she said. “It gives our county a disadvantage…How much do we have to be punished? Our kids in Worcester County are just as important as kids in other counties.”
Shockley-Lynch hoped the commission would revisit the funding formula.
“It’s not a done deal yet,” she said. “We’re hoping Commissioner Bertino’s testimony will have some influence.”
Senator Mary Beth Carozza, a member of the Kirwan Commission, thanked the local officials for sharing their views during Tuesday’s public hearing.
“Our Worcester County delegation made a tremendous effort to travel to Annapolis as a team to testify for fair and equitable education funding formulas not only for Worcester County but statewide, and their united presence sent a strong message to the Kirwan Commission about how one size does not fit all when it comes to the Commission’s recommendations,” Carozza said. “I will continue to use my role on the commission and on the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee to fight for fair education funding formulas, prioritization of the commission’s recommendations, accountability for the dollars that have been spent and will be spent, and outcomes tied to student performance.”
The final Kirwan Commission meeting is set for Nov. 21.