On August 27, Superintendent Karen Salmon stood with Governor Hogan in a chaotic, confusing press conference and announced that she was “strongly encouraging” schools to re-evaluate their school reopening plans and return to in-person instruction quickly. To aid this effort, the two announced that $10 million in federal funding was being offered to local districts who “who are able to move toward in-person instruction at the end of the first marking period.”
Many educators thought that meant $10 million per school. Or at least $10 million per district.
That was $10 million statewide. That amounts to $11 per public school student. Is $11 adequate to keep students and educators safe?
At a legislative hearing last month, local superintendents in Maryland pegged the needed per pupil funding at $486, based on calculations by the School Superintendents Association (AASA) and the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO).
Oh, and the $10 million that they announced on August 27 appears to be gone…mostly to private schools and higher education institutions.
On September 9, Hogan and Salmon made a confusing and quiet announcement sharing that $10 million in federal coronavirus relief aid from the CARES Act had in fact already been sent to a number of schools. The governor and superintendent’s initial surprise announcement in August of the availability of the $10 million was vague concerning how that money would be distributed. They also didn’t explain the reopening criteria that were used to select recipients. And in the end, their September 9 announcement revealed that just a third of that money went to underfunded K-12 traditional public schools, while a third went to a handful of private and parochial schools so dear to the governor and US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and another third went to higher education institutions.
Hogan and Salmon announced the availability of the $10 million in aid as if it were a vast sum available to public schools, when what it really amounted to when it was ultimately distributed was about $4 per public school student. That amount would never begin to address the needs that exist to reopen schools safely, including needed upgrades to ventilation systems and providing the PPE and supplies required on an ongoing basis to conduct in-person education for 900,000 students during this life-threatening pandemic.
Here’s how the recipients break down by area:
|Total||% of total|
Public schools received just 33% of the funds, with non-public schools receiving almost as much. If you were to break down the funds per student it would be totally inequitable. For example, two private schools and one charter school each received more than Montgomery County, the state’s largest public school system.
Then on September 21, Hogan and Salmon announced $10 million in grant funding administered by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) for schools around the state if they plan to reopen to in-person instruction in the second quarter. Local school systems, including the SEED School, the Maryland School for the Blind, and the Maryland School for the Deaf, are eligible to apply for this funding, which again came from the federal government.
With no assurances of providing equipment and supplies to safely and sustainably reopen, the governor and superintendent are again dangling completely inadequate funding to the tune of a possible $11 per student to pressure locals to reopen, with applications due October 2.
If you’re keeping score, that’s $4 from the first grant and $11 from the second grant for a total of $15 per public school student despite local superintendents saying it would take $486 per student to reopen safely. The governor and superintendent are funding 3% of what local superintendents say is necessary.
The $486 per student figure would mean that we need roughly $450 million in new funding to reopen school buildings safely. The governor and superintendent have offered a very small fraction of that. And don’t forget that earlier this summer Gov. Hogan proposed more than $340 million in cuts to public schools. While the Board of Public Works stopped more than $100 million of those cuts, the governor still reportedly plans to propose at least $230 million in cuts to school funding for the next fiscal year. The state’s $10 million offer is pretty meaningless in the face of an exponentially larger potential cut down the road.
This is a PR stunt, not a serious strategy or attempt to provide the funds that are necessary to reopen schools safely. We cannot be distracted or fooled and must instead continue to fight for the safe reopening that protects the health of educators, students, and families.