Despite a challenging school year unlike any experienced before, Maryland’s students and educators received some much-needed good news in February when the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future became law after a long, hard-fought campaign stretching over many years. As a member of that campaign from the beginning, BCF joined with our partners in celebration.
Five years ago, the Maryland General Assembly created the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, commonly called the Kirwan Commission, and charged it with making policy recommendations to improve performance of Maryland’s public schools, and to recommend changes to their funding formulas.
BCF recognized early on that the Kirwan Commission presented a tremendous opportunity to address long-time disparities in funding, opportunity, and outcomes in our schools. When the Commission was created in 2016, we were already focused on developing an advocacy strategy to secure public education funding to deal with a structural deficit at Baltimore City Schools and expand early childhood education. As BCF staff began engaging with the Commission, it became clear that additional data was needed to ensure that the equity implications of any potential recommendations were carefully considered.
In 2018, BCF commissioned research from The Education Trust to examine disparities in educational achievement between Maryland’s students of color and white students. The research confirmed that these disparities are a reflection of how we organize our schools and shortchange certain students when it comes to critical educational opportunities from early childhood through high school. For instance, the report found that nearly half of Maryland’s Black or Latino students attend schools in one of the three most underfunded districts in the state. These districts received about $4,000 less per student than the old funding formula said they should. With that data in hand, BCF began advocating for a race equity framework to achieve adequate funding and innovation for Maryland public schools and all Maryland students.
Throughout 2019, BCF CEO Shanaysha Sauls worked with other corporate and civic leaders to rally support for the Commission’s recommendations. Grants to Strong Schools Maryland and BUILD helped mobilize grassroots support across the state and city. When the 2020 General Assembly session began, BCF submitted testimony in support of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future—the legislation introduced to enact the Commission’s recommendations—and deployed our communication channels, from our website to social media to email alerts, in support of the legislation’s passage.
When the 2020 legislation was subsequently vetoed by the governor, we continued to advocate with our partners in the Coalition for a veto override, which the General Assembly accomplished in February 2021. The Blueprint, which is now state law, contains a number of provisions important to BCF, as well as our donors and partners. For example, it expands the availability of early childhood education by establishing voluntary full-day prekindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds, along with more funding for pre-K, Judy Centers, Infant and Toddlers programs, and Family Support programs.
Thank you to all our partners in the Baltimore region who joined us in making this once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform public schooling possible.
What is the Blueprint?
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is the legislation enacting the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. The Commission made recommendations in five policy areas:
The legislation increases education funding by $1.1 billion over the next three years.
How is BCF involved?
BCF complements our grantmaking and impact investing with advocacy for public policies to create a better future for the people of our region. We advocate on issues that are aligned with our priorities in education and neighborhoods, and where BCF’s voice can make a difference. Donors to BCF’s Civic Leadership Fund make this work possible.