Maryland’s 24 school systems have until Oct. 1 to submit their Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education plans.
The deadline approved Thursday by the Blueprint’s Accountability and Implementation Board coincides with an appeal process for local school officials to use if they disagree with the board’s decision to withhold money for the next fiscal year.
The board would only withhold money if it determined a school district didn’t meet certain requirements that are part of the state’s 10-year Blueprint education reform plan.
The board’s counsel, Heidi Dudderar, said the October deadline gives the board about two months until Dec. 1 to issue school officials a warning that Blueprint funds may be held for the next fiscal year. A final decision on whether to release money would be made by Feb. 1.
The dates are part of an annual process for the board and school officials to follow.
“At some point, there needed to be a final draft in order to trigger the rest of your other deadlines that are in your appeals process,” said Dudderar, whose designation as “interim” legal counsel for the AIB was officially removed Thursday.
After the board’s decision, school officials have 30 days to file an appeal. In their appeal letter, officials can ask to present their case in an oral argument before the board. If granted, representatives of a school district — also called local education agencies or LEAs — would be granted 10 minutes to make their case.
Rachel Hise, executive director of the board, doesn’t envision this happening this year because, in March, school officials submitted preliminary plans that are currently under review. The AIB could start approving them next month, which also begins a new fiscal year.
“Potentially there could be an LEA that does not have an approvable plan in July [and] will need to make further revisions,” she said. “We just needed to have sort of a final date by which they would need to submit their revised plan for review and staff recommendation to the board for approval or disapproval. That’s where that Oct. 1 date may come into play this year. Hopefully it will not.”
The local Blueprint plans include goals through the 2023-24 school year based on four priorities: to improve early childhood education, hire and retain high-quality and diverse teachers, upgrade college and career readiness standards and provide more resources for students in need.
School officials must submit a second set of Blueprint plans by March 2024 that incorporates those four priorities through the 2026-27 school year.
A third submission is due in 2027 to cover school years from 2027-28 through 2031-32.
The AIB can make changes to the overall Blueprint comprehensive plan every August.
In other business, the board approved an agreement with the Interagency Commission on School Construction to reimburse that agency 50% of Dudderar’s salary and benefits. She also provides legal advice for the commission.
The expenditure for Dudderar’s services to the AIB is from Nov. 2 until June 30. When the new fiscal year begins next month, Hise said the implementation board will pay her salary quarterly.
Hise said that AIB hasn’t received an invoice from the commission, but the estimated amount for the 50-50 split for Dudderar’s legal work with the board is “in the neighborhood of $60,000 to $70,000.”