Pre-K to 12 Public Education Funding and Reforms
Over the past several years, education funding in Maryland has fallen below what is needed to provide an adequate and equitable education for all students. While evident before, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated these inequities and raised awareness of how differences in access to learning resources diminish the opportunity to learn.
In 2016, the Maryland General Assembly created the Kirwan Commission to provide recommendations on how to rewrite Maryland’s school funding formula and provide policy proposals for improving education. After hearing from experts and gathering information on best practices, the commission recommended investments in early childhood education, high quality and diverse teachers and leaders, college and career pathways, more resources to ensure student success (a guaranteed base for all students, increased amounts for students at risk who need tutoring and wrap-around services) and an accountability system. Strong Schools Maryland provides a graphic description of the Kirwan plan. HB 1300 The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future phases in these plans over a ten-year period. It passed with a veto-proof majority just before the General Assembly adjourned early due to the Covid19 pandemic but was vetoed by the Governor. The override of the veto is especially important to avoid further delay in implementation of these reforms.
Since the 1970s Maryland League members have been concerned about adequate and equitable funding of public education. Our studies show that because of differences in local wealth, some counties have a harder time raising the money needed to provide a well-rounded education for all students. Our State Constitution says that “The General Assembly…shall by Law establish throughout the State a thorough and efficient System of Free Public Schools; and shall provide by taxation, or otherwise, for their maintenance.” Over the years, many commissions have recognized the inequities and inadequacies of school funding and recommended funding formulas that required a base amount per pupil (the foundation), adjustments for special needs and a larger state contribution for low-wealth counties.
LWVMD education advocacy is based on several positions. Our Financing Education position recognizes that the primary responsibility for funding public elementary and secondary education lies with the state. We support:
- A foundation program based on a weighted per pupil formula supported from general state revenues at a level high enough to eliminate inequities.
- Some local leeway to provide additional funding for education.
- Continuation of local control over the schools.
- The encouragement of increased federal funding for education.
Our Children’s Services position supports a comprehensive range of child-centered services to ensure all children a chance to grow toward stable, productive adulthood. Under our Competent Teachers position, we support the state aiding local school systems in attracting and retaining competent teachers. And the state should ensure that students have an opportunity to pass high school graduation tests.
For the 2021 General Assembly, legislators must override the Blueprint veto.
We are a member of the Coalition for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future which supports legislation that makes technical fixes to ensure that the Blueprint funding phase-in and implementation timelines are not delayed, clarifies certain provisions and improves equity. We will provide more detail when bill(s) are introduced.
The League is also a member of the Maryland Education Coalition (MEC) which supports a “Companion Bill” that would address other education problems, especially those caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, schools need relief from the effect declining enrollment could have on education aid. The pandemic highlighted the effect of the digital divide, caused by affordability for devices and internet connections in urban areas and lack of infrastructure in rural areas.
In addition to passing new legislation, we will need to carefully examine the Governor’s budget to be sure that it includes the funds needed for the Blueprint and technical fixes.
Challenges to Passing This Legislation
One challenge is the House of Delegates’ plan to hold only virtual hearings until mid-February when they will convene and consider veto overrides. That leaves less time to enact technical fixes and other companion legislation. The other of course, is revenue. The Governor vetoed several new taxes intended to pay for the Blueprint. Since costs are projected to be almost $4 billion more per year by year ten of the phase-in of the Blueprint, it is also important to override these vetoes. See our Action Blog on Progressive and Adequate Fiscal Policy.
LWVMD believes that we must support the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future to prepare our children for the 21st century workforce, strengthen Maryland’s economic future and have an educated workforce to attract business to our state.