With more than $1 billion in construction needs and recommendations from a commission studying ways to make Maryland schools some of the best in the country, Montgomery County advocates are joining a statewide movement seeking more education funding from the state.
County Executive Marc Elrich is expected to join thousands of others in a demonstration at the state capital in Annapolis demanding lawmakers properly fund state schools, according to the event’s website. Maryland schools are estimated to be underfunded by $2.9 billion annually, according to state data.
Participants from across the state will ask for more money to fund higher teacher salaries, more counselors, expanded career and technical education and universal pre-kindergarten.
“We’re trying to provide the best education we can for our students and that starts with the funding that’s in Annapolis,” Elrich said in a promotional video for the event. “We have to make sure that those decisions by the state turn into resources for the children in Montgomery County.”
Montgomery County Education Association President Chris Lloyd, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost, Montgomery school board and County Council members, students, parents and other education activists are also expected to attend.
The advocates are planning to march about three-quarters of a mile near the capital Monday evening to promote their cause. Buses will transport people to the march from around the state.
In January, the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission, issued a list of recommendations to improve state public schools, including free, full-day pre-kindergarten for all low-income students, an initiative Montgomery County leaders have been pushing for years.
Kirwan’s recommendations total $4 billion over 10 years and legislation has been introduced in the state legislature that would provide $1 billion over the next two years to begin implementing the recommendations.
The legislation calls for $325 million in increased funding from state taxpayers for public schools for fiscal 2020 and $750 million in fiscal 2021, but doesn’t indicate how the money would be generated.
Over the past two years, the county has focused on expanding availability of full-day pre-kindergarten slots at publicly funded programs, during which time the number of 4-year-olds enrolled in such programs increased from 585 to 1,283, according to county data.
While pleased with the progress, County Council members have indicated a commitment to continuing expanding programming to reach all eligible 3- and 4-year-olds.
Elrich, Council President Nancy Navarro, school system Superintendent Jack Smith and Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard are expected to announce a “four-year action plan” on Thursday, outlining plans for a joint effort to increase child-care opportunities for infants through 5-year-olds.
Earlier this year, Navarro said the county would pull funds from various areas of the budget to fund the plan.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reacehd at email@example.com