Two gubernatorial candidates last week turned their attention to Maryland’s education achievement gap and early childhood education.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Tuesday unveiled his Running Start Maryland program, which would pave the way for universal pre-kindergarten. Thursday, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler held a round-table discussion at Loyola University about Maryland’s achievement gap.
If he is elected to the governor’s office next fall, all Maryland children will have the option of attending pre-K by 2018, Brown said outside the Patterson Park Charter School.
At a news conference following a tour of the school and a couple visits to classrooms, Brown laid out his Running Start Maryland universal pre-K plan in which the state will establish a “universal, high-quality and voluntary pre-K program” funded by revenues collected from the various Maryland casinos.
“Over the past seven years, we’ve built the No. 1 public school system in the country because we know that a good education is the pathway to success,” said Brown. “But our work is far from finished, and having the best schools in the nation is not good enough until every child in our state has the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
Gansler’s round-table discussion, which included panelists who have worked in various educational capacities, focused on six proposal ideas.
“The moral stain of our state is, in fact, this achievement gap,” said Gansler, who named Del. Jolene Ivey, of Prince George’s County, as his running mate earlier this week. Test scores in Prince George’s County sit near the bottom of the state rankings in reading, math and science.
The proposals included expanding access to pre-K, which Gansler said would start with underprivileged children, increasing outreach to families and students with limited English proficiency, building a new data system that would allow people to track the government’s education expenditures and performance across programs, creating a governor’s teacher corps to mentor and train selected new teachers, expanding after-school, summer and Saturday school offerings and creating a Maryland Matters Volunteer Corps that works with families and at-risk children to keep them from falling behind.
Gansler also laid out three funding options. One suggestion is to defer money from the horse racing industry to early childhood education. Another idea is to use No Child Left Behind funds to help close the education opportunity gap, and the third proposal is to coordinate purchasing across Maryland’s 24 local education agencies to reduce costs.
The panel’s reception to the ideas was positive, and panelists offered insight into the issues that single and working parents face, the various engagement issues in the Hispanic community and the issue of disparity in inner-city communities.
Maryland schools consistently top the charts of the nation’s best public schools but have the second highest education gap in the nation, according to new data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Under Brown’s plan, half-day pre-K will be made available to every child in Maryland by 2018. By 2022, the program will expand to full day.
Marc Shapiro and Heather Norris are JT staff reporters.