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Maryland’s Kirwan Commission

Maryland’s Kirwan Commission

Kirwan Commission Boston

One of the frequently covered topics in higher education is the cost of college and specifically, the reduction in state funding for their public institutions. Less covered nationally is adequacy of the cost of K-12 education. In 2016, the Maryland governor and legislature jointly formed the Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission after its chair. The goal of the bipartisan Commission was to research successful school systems globally and make recommendations to make Maryland’s world-class. Governor Larry Hogan appointed two people to the commission, and the state senate president and house speaker appointed five persons each. There were an additional eight members appointed by the State Board of Education, Maryland State Education Association, Baltimore Teachers Union, Maryland Association of Boards of Education, Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland, Association of School Business Officials, Maryland PTA, and the Maryland Association of Counties.

The Commission issued two interim reports and one preliminary report before presenting its findings in October 2019, recommending that Maryland increase its annual spending on education by $3.8 billion to be phased in over the next decade. While a precise funding formula has yet to be negotiated between the state and counties, the Commission has recommended that it be split approximately 50/50 between the state’s portion and that covered by Baltimore City and 23 counties. On the surface, it’s hard to argue against recommendations such as requiring higher credentials for new teachers and increasing teacher pay, funding for pre-kindergarten, and funding for schools with many children living in poverty.

While the Commission is scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2019, the Maryland General Assembly will address the recommendations in January and the discussions and debates have already begun. Governor Hogan ran on a campaign to repeal many tax hikes initiated by his predecessor, Martin O’Malley. His reaction to the estimated costs of the proposed recommendations is to couch the Commission as the Kirwan Tax Hike Commission and suggest that the recommendations will cost every Maryland family $6,000 annually in increased taxes if enacted. The incoming senate president, a member of the commission and teacher, has countered that hypothesis.

I applaud Maryland’s politicians for establishing the Kirwan Commission. Maryland’s interest in improving the quality of K-12 education is likely in the top quartile of all states in the U.S. Unlike the higher education funding debates underway in other states, these costs are mandated by state law. Given the Democratic majority in Maryland’s legislature, I anticipate that many of these proposed changes will be approved, provided that they can reach agreement with city and county officials on future funding obligations.

While Maryland’s median household income is among the nation’s highest, approximately 33% higher than the U.S. average, such initiatives in lower-income states would likely never be enacted. As a taxpayer and educator, I believe in investing in education for the future of our children and grandchildren. I also recognize that higher-taxed individuals and corporations have options to relocate to lower-taxed states. Balancing needs with committed spending and required funding is a delicate process consuming more and more legislatures.



Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, and as a member of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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