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  • Aaron Tiao

Blueprint for Maryland's Future

On Friday, February 12, 2021, The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act, also known as the Kirwan Education Bill, passed in a 31-16 state senate vote, officially overriding Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the bill last April. The multibillion dollar bill, which will be implemented over the course of the next decade, will focus on increasing funding in areas with high concentrations of poverty. In the words of Sadhana Gupta Pateria, a sophomore at BCC and the Co-President of Students to End Poverty (STEP), “Overriding the veto of this bill is going to revolutionize a failing education system.”

There is a gaping divide in access to a quality education between low and high-income students in the United States. While some students have easy access to guidance counselors, booster classes, up-to-date textbooks, peer tutoring, and more, others have a drastically different experience.

According to a national study conducted by Education Resource Studies (ERS) in 2017, low-income students are more likely to have novice teachers and principals, and less likely to have access to a rigorous curriculum. Furthermore, the US Government Accountability Office reported that school-level poverty was associated with disparities in student access to advanced courses, like calculus and physics, and those that earn students college credits, such as advanced placement (AP) courses. Hence, if you live in an area with a high concentration of poverty, you are less likely to stand out during the college application process. Similar trends can be seen in Maryland. According to the Maryland Longitudinal Data System, among Maryland’s Class of 2017 cohort, students living in poverty dropped out of school in larger numbers than their more affluent peers (14% vs 5%), were less likely to graduate from high school within four years (79% vs 92%), received lower mean total SAT scores (949 vs 1113), and had lower rates of meeting college readiness benchmarks (22% vs 56%; MSDE, 2018; College Board, 2018).

Unfortunately, the problems plaguing our education system today are the same ones that have hindered progress and success for millions of students for years. Due to a lack of opportunity and resources, so many low income students have been stripped of a proper education solely because of where they live and go to school; however, the passage of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future provides an opportunity to rectify the deficiencies of our flawed education system.

The Blueprint for Maryland's Future will pave the way to provide wrap-around services to all schools in the state, giving students the necessary social, academic, and behavioral support to get through the school day. It will give middle and high school students access to career technical pathway options, a cost-effective alternative to college for low-income students. It will require middle and high schools to encourage students to enroll in the next, most rigorous subject matter course available if the students demonstrate proficiency. And, it will increase funding to support families and students in low income areas so students can receive additional assistance if necessary, and parents can receive health care counseling, adult education services, employment counseling, and parental skills training. These are only a few of the ways this bill aims to tackle the disparities in Maryland’s education system and change it for the better. It would be naive to assume this bill is a panacea for every problem low-income students and families face, but it is a necessary and critical step in tackling the inequities that currently plague Maryland’s school system.

The veto override of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is a testament to the thousands of volunteers that advocated for the bill, including BCC;s Students to End Poverty (STEP) club. In November 2020, STEP joined Strong Schools Maryland in the fight to override the Blueprint veto. For the next four months, STEP launched a letter writing campaign, generating over 800 emails to elected officials, and testified before the full Montgomery County Delegation. In addition, STEP lobbied Maryland elected officials in key districts through virtual one on one meetings. Because District 18 already supported the bill, the STEP team connected with student-led organizations in districts where state assembly members had previously opposed the bill, and worked with those students to lobby their elected officials. By providing briefs with key arguments about the Blueprint, STEP was able to educate these other student groups about the bill and support them as they successfully advocated with their state assembly members. “It was an invaluable experience for all of us and allowed us to be a part of something that will help the lives of millions in the future,” said Sadhana, STEP’s co-President, “A couple months ago we didn’t know the slightest bit about lobbying and now look where we are and what we have accomplished.”

Thanks to hundreds of volunteers and organizations across Maryland, the Blueprint for Maryland's Future is now a law. In our country, where education is the pathway to opportunity, and opportunity is the pathway to success, the passage of this bill gives millions of students in our state the necessary tools to succeed, regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, or place of residence.

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