Governor Martin O'Malley today, joined by students, educators and other officials, promoted the Administration's continued commitment to public education with a visit to North Point High School, a unique school with a rigorous academic program that promotes innovative skills and technical training to provide students with the tools they need for a highly-competitive 21st century workforce.
For an unprecedented five years in a row, Maryland's schools have been named #1 in the nation by Education Week Magazine. Even with more than $8.3 billion in spending cuts over seven years, the O'Malley-Brown Administration has maintained a strong commitment to Maryland's public schools, increasing its investments in public education by 51 percent since FY 2006 and proposing a record $6 billion in Maryland's public schools in FY 2014.
"Because of the better choices we've made together to invest in our children's future, we're able to continue our commitment to Maryland's number-one-in-the-nation public schools," said Governor O'Malley. "But we must continue to promote innovation in our classrooms to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow. That's why we're investing $7 million in this year's budget to accelerate the conversion of schools to comprehensive digital learning environments, support accelerated pathways for students seeking CTE or STEM training, and increase access to postsecondary education."
The proposed FY 2014 budget includes a $7 million investment in two new and innovative initiatives to give students the tools they need to compete:
Digital Learning Innovation Fund
To advance Maryland's efforts to harness the potential of new and emerging technologies, the Governor's proposed FY 2014 budget includes a $5 million investment in a Digital Learning Innovation Fund to provide resources to local school districts to accelerate their conversion to comprehensive digital learning environments. The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) will create competitive grants from the fund to be distributed to districts that propose the most compelling plans for conversion to digital learning. Separate competitions will be held for large and small districts to ensure that districts of varying size are selected for funding. Supported activities would include: provision of multimedia assets to students and teachers, differentiation of instruction to address diverse learning styles, differentiation of assignments and leveling of materials for students advancing at different paces, training and support to both educators and students, and offering more current information than traditional textbooks on an ongoing basis. The State and some districts have already instituted some digital learning, including shared purchasing, online courses, recovery courses, eReaders, ePortfolios and hardware conversions.
Early College Innovation Fund
The Administration remains committed to increasing access to postsecondary education and helping students obtain credentials that position them to compete for jobs in growing sectors of Maryland's economy. The Governor's proposed budget includes a $2 million investment to create an Early College Innovation Fund to support the expansion of early college access programs that provide accelerated pathways for students seeking career and technical education (CTE) or training in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. Under the initiative, MSDE will generate competitive grants to fund partnerships of local school systems and higher education institutions to create early college high schools or other forms of early college access. The support would bridge funding intended to help eligible partnerships bear some of the start-up costs associated with creating new early college programs.
Priority would be given to proposals that launch early college high schools (also known as "middle colleges") focused on CTE or STEM and that provide students with credentials (in the form of degrees, certificates, and certifications, as appropriate) in fields for which there is high-demand in Maryland.
The state's most successful model for Early College High School is the Academy of Health Sciences, which was created in partnership with Prince George's County Public Schools and Prince George's Community College. Upon graduation each student earns both a high school diploma and an associate's degree in health sciences.