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Cardin, Trone Introduce Bicameral “TRUE EQUITY Act” to Strengthen Federal-State-Local Educational Partnerships

January 07, 2020

New bill seeks to elevate Kirwan Commission recommendations for educational reforms in Maryland to national-priority status

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman David Trone (both D-Md.) announced legislation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that would provide an additional $1.4 billion in federal grant funding for states and local communities that commit to transformative policy changes and allocated significant additional resources to address education inequities. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined as a cosponsor in the Senate and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) as a cosponsor in the House.

Purposefully aligning with the five main policy recommendations under the Maryland Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education (Kirwan Commission), the legislation — the Transformational Reforms and Updates to Ensure Educational Quality and Urgent Investments in Today’s Youth Act (the TRUE EQUITY Act/S. 3149) — aims to strengthen federal-state-local partnerships. The overall goal is to positively leverage those partnerships to ensure educational equity and eliminate academic achievement gaps in exchange for stringent accountability measures. In Maryland, these new federal grants would cover a significant portion of the costs to implement the Kirwan Commission recommendations. 

“As a proud graduate of Baltimore City Public Schools, I’m committed to fighting for every current and future Maryland student,” said Senator Cardin. “I applaud the work of the Kirwan Commission that developed feasible and necessary recommendations to transform Maryland’s public schools and eliminate educational inequities. The TRUE EQUITY Act establishes a stronger federal partnership with state and local communities dedicated to providing their children a world class education.”

“It’s about time that we invest the money and resources so every child in Maryland and across the country can get a good education,” said Representative Trone, the only member of the Maryland delegation on the House Education and Labor Committee. “The Kirwan Commission created a blueprint for the investments we need to make in order to give every child a good, equitable education. This bill ensures the federal government will be a strong partner for states like Maryland that follow these necessary recommendations.”

“Every student deserves access to a quality education. The TRUE EQUITY Act invests in the future of our children and our state by following the Kirwan Commission blueprint and increasing our commitment to schools on the federal, state, and local levels. This legislation builds on the Keep Our PACT Act to provide critical resources to Maryland schools and to ensure our students have the opportunity to succeed – no matter their zip code or their household income. I will keep working to push Congress to fully invest in America’s education system and our children’s success,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“As a professor of constitutional law for more than a quarter-century and a member of the House Public Education Caucus, I believe that education is the lifeblood of democracy in America,” said Representative Raskin. “I am committed to improving America’s public education system for all students in Maryland and beyond and am thrilled to cosponsor this bicameral legislation empowering the transformative recommendations of the Kirwan Commission.”

Education leaders across Maryland have expressed support for this new federal legislation. 

“We commend Senator Cardin’s and Representative Trone’s steadfast support for the transformative and necessary recommendations made by the Kirwan Commission,” said Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost. “They recognize that our kids can’t wait and educators in every school district in Maryland need additional resources and tools to build and sustain a school system that performs at the level of the best performing school systems in the world. The TRUE EQUITY Act will provide a true federal partnership with our state and local efforts to eliminate academic disparities across racial and socioeconomic lines and elevate the teaching profession.”

Under the TRUE EQUITY Act, an additional $1.4 billion would be available to partner with state and local efforts to ensure educational equity and quality with stringent accountability measures. Specifically, this legislation would:

  1. Early Childhood Education: Create a new grant, authorized at up to $275 million, that bolsters state and local investments in our youngest learners to prepare them to enter school ready to learn. In Maryland, this can expand access to all-day Pre-K and Judy Centers serving low-income families.
  1. High-Quality and Diverse Teachers and Leaders: Create a new grant, authorized at up to $340 million, that supports additional teacher training and ensures educators are utilizing the latest practices. In Maryland, this would support statewide growing needs for special educators.
  1. College and Career Readiness Pathways: Create a new grant, authorized at up to $50 million, which builds on state and local efforts to ensure that students have access to college and career pathways by 10th grade. In Maryland, this would expand access to certificate programs and dual-enrollment Pell.
  1. More Resources to Ensure All Students Are Successful: Create a new grant, authorized at up to $750 million, which strengthens funding for programs that reduce achievement gaps and provide wraparound services for children. In Maryland, this would provide needed funding for low-income students, English learner students, children with disabilities, expansion of physical and mental health services and afterschool and summer learning activities.
  1. Governance and Accountability: Require that any state applying for funding under the TRUE EQUITY Act establish an independent State Oversight Board that has the ability to hold State and local school districts accountable for failing to meet the state-established educational equity goals, TRUE EQUITY Act grant renewals would be contingent on meeting educational equity goal. In Maryland, the Kirwan Commission’s recommendation to establish an Independent Oversight Board would allow Maryland to qualify for the TRUE EQUITY Act grants.

All four grant programs created by the TRUE EQUITY Act provide a federal match of $1 for every $2 invested by state and local communities above Fiscal Year 2019 spending levels, with state and local communities receiving one of the new grant programs required to provide a Maintenance of Effort of at least the previous year’s funding level. In Maryland, these federal grants cover a significant portion of the costs to implement the Kirwan Commission recommendations, bringing up to $1.4 billion in new federal funding to the state. 

The full text of the bill can be found here and a one-page description of the legislation can be found at this link.

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