It's Time for a New Maryland Promise
Educators and legislators are working together to pave the way for the next era in public education funding. A 2016 study presented to the Kirwan Commission, a group of 25 education leaders tasked with revising the state’s funding formula, found that Maryland public schools are annually underfunded by $2.9 billion. That’s an average of $2 million in underfunding in each and every school in Maryland.
We must give schools the funding they need to be the center of our communities, counties, and state again. It’s time to make a new Maryland Promise to families that all kids have a great public school—and an equal opportunity for success—no matter their neighborhood. As the Kirwan Commission and General Assembly revise Maryland’s school funding formula for the first time in nearly two decades, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revamp and improve how Maryland funds our schools.
The percentage of Maryland public school students living in poverty has more than doubled since 1990—from 22% to 45%—putting our statewide student population on the verge of becoming majority low-income. Since the last time the state funding formula was revised nearly 20 years ago, the percentage of English language learners, who require more staff and resources to catch up and stay on track with their English-speaking peers, has doubled. The number of students receiving special education services has also increased markedly. Maryland now ranks near the bottom of all states for funding poor districts and affluent district evenly, with federal education data showing that Maryland’s poorest school districts receive 5% less state and local education funding than Maryland’s wealthiest districts.
This underfunding has resulted in an increasing teacher to student ratio, meaning larger class sizes and less individualized instruction. Maryland teachers make 84 cents on the dollar compared to peers in similar fields with similar levels of education. Far too many support staff don’t make a living wage and must work multiple jobs to make ends meet. And this underfunding has a direct, negative impact on the breadth and depth of programs available to students.
Marylanders overwhelmingly want to close the funding gap in the state. A November 2017 poll found that 72% of Marylanders said they favor “fill[ing] the multi-billion dollar funding gap that public schools in Maryland are currently facing.” Only 21% oppose it. The Kirwan Commission will deliver its final recommendations in mid-2018 and the General Assembly will consider those recommendations, along with a new funding formula, during the 2019 legislative session. MSEA will be at the forefront of fighting for a significant increase in the resources and opportunities available to every student in Maryland.
For the latest news on the Kirwan Commission and school funding in Maryland, visit MSEA Newsfeed.
Fix the Fund
When Marylanders approved casino gaming, voters thought the new revenue would increase education funding. But instead, Gov. O'Malley used $500 million of that money elsewhere in his budgets, followed by Gov. Hogan diverting $1.4 billion of casino money to plug holes in other parts of his budgets. In 2018, educators successfully fought for the passage of the Fix the Fund Act, which puts a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to finally stop this budget gimmick and provide a $500 million annual increase in school funding. If voters approve the amendment, it will be an important first step in closing the annual $2.9 billion underfunding of our schools.
Gov. Hogan's Anti-Public Education Record
Since becoming Maryland’s governor, Hogan has made several attempts to cut public education funding. By cutting the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) in half and capping the inflation factor in the Thornton formula, his first budget proposal in 2015 would have cut hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools during his term in office if it had been passed. Parents, educators, students, and school officials worked with a bipartisan group of legislators in Annapolis to reverse those cuts—including a unanimous vote on an amended budget restoring education funding in the Senate. In order to get Gov. Hogan to allocate the full funding for education set aside in this budget, the General Assembly passed legislation that would make GCEI mandatory in future years should the governor withhold the $68 million dedicated for schools.
Despite that, Gov. Hogan still withheld the $68 million for public schools. Determined not to back down in a political standoff with the General Assembly, the governor announced in a May 2015 press conference that he would not be releasing the funding allocated by the legislature. As a result, Maryland students and teachers had to make due with less—including increased teacher turnover in Carroll, larger class sizes in Howard, 400 fewer educators in Montgomery, and cut programs in Frederick.
Unfortunately, he has continued to attempt to cut education funding. In 2016, he withheld more than $20 million that the General Assembly had allocated for education funding. And in 2017, Gov. Hogan cut $20 million from after-school and summer programs, college readiness scholarships, and programs to increase teacher retention and decrease turnover. Given his record, it's no surprise that the governor has tried to distract Marylanders from the $2.9 billion in annual school underfunding during his watch.
Inexplicably, Gov. Hogan appears prepared to punish Maryland’s public schools and our students as revenge for not getting his way on his initiatives, including a misguided voucher scheme to send $5 million in public funds to private schools. Despite overwhelming, bipartisan support in the General Assembly just three weeks ago to restore $132 million in Gov. Hogan’s school funding cuts, he upended an outcome supported by the vast majority of legislators and Marylanders.
Gov. Hogan's third supplemental budget proposal continues to ignore the General Assembly’s work to craft a better budget for Maryland that strengthens the pension system while also ensuring strong funding for public schools today. Gov. Hogan’s apparent eagerness to focus more on 11th hour political grandstanding than on compromise is incredibly disappointing, demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the state’s pension system, and further jeopardizes critical funding for our public schools and students.
After the hard work of the General Assembly to restore more than 90% of his cuts, Gov. Hogan has decided to hold hostage nearly $70 million in public school funding in exchange for his agenda—including a discriminatory, unaccountable, and fraud-prone vouchers program that will only benefit private schools.
Starting with a radio advertising campaign and online petition drive in January, and continuing with the launch of DontShortchangeMaryland.com in early February, the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) and its members have led a session-long campaign to protect the investment in Maryland schools and restore the education cuts proposed by Gov. Hogan.
The House Appropriations Committee’s plan will restore over 90% of these cuts to our schools—ensuring continued progress for our students—while protecting retirement security for educators. We urge the General Assembly to reject Gov. Hogan’s plan and support this better budget for Maryland.