Since legislators passed the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act (also known as the Thornton Plan) in 2002, Maryland has provided historic levels of aid to its public schools—allowing all 24 of its school systems to raise achievement levels for all groups of students and helping the state’s education system become one of the best in the nation.
To continue this success, we need to stand up for our students by fully funding Thornton and the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI). Click here for a fact sheet on GCEI. As educators, we know that there is a direct connection between adequate funding for our schools and student achievement.
But with Gov. Larry Hogan in office, education funding is squarely on the chopping block. He started his term by proposing $144 million in cuts to school funding for FY16, challenging the continued success of our schools, which are at the foundation of what makes Maryland attractive to businesses and families. Recognizing these concerns, the General Assembly passed a budget that fully restored Gov. Hogan’s cuts—including a unanimous vote when the budget went through the Senate. But the governor continued to play politics with our children’s education, waiting nearly 50 days before refusing to release $68 million in GCEI funding for thirteen of Maryland’s local school districts.
"Larry Hogan campaigned on the need to change Maryland, but his budget decisions shortchange Maryland's students and schools," said MSEA President Betty Weller. "Rather than meeting growing challenges, Gov. Hogan’s cuts to public schools will lead to overcrowded classrooms, inadequate technology, and cuts to instructional materials, programs, and positions. This is not a 'no-layoffs' budget; these cuts will mean fewer teachers and fewer support staff in our schools.
Gov. Hogan has consistently refused to listen to concerns from educators, parents, students, elected officials from both parties, and local school district leaders about the real impact his cuts would create in the classroom. Public opinion polls from both the Washington Post and Goucher show education funding as the top priority of Marylanders—Gov. Hogan’s decision to cut public school funding goes directly against the will of the voters who put him in office.
Other funding priorities
We support the state keeping its promise to educators by making both the full actuarial required pension contribution and supplemental payments. At the request of educators and bond rating agencies, the Maryland General Assembly voted to move from a “corridor” funding model to the “actuarial” funding model—creating greater long-term sustainability in our pension fund. Maryland is now the first state in the country to commit to actuarial funding in addition to supplemental payments on top.
In the capital budget, MSEA supports expanded school construction funding to address the unmet needs for building and improving safe, modern facilities across the state. We also oppose efforts to water down the 2012 maintenance of effort improvements that protect the delicate partnership between the state and local governments to fund our schools.
It's also time to reassess the adequacy and equity of how we fund our schools. Although the Thornton plan has become a national model for school financing, it's now 13 years old. It's time to review and establish the investment necessary to fund the programs and student population of today, not a decade ago.
MSEA supports legislation to create the Thornton 2 Commission to ensure that there is adequate funding across the state. The commission would study education funding, the recruitment and retention of educators, appropriate facilities, and student achievement to understand the many factors and mandates that have made an impact on education since the passage of Thornton in 2002, including the current reform issues—Common Core State Standards, evaluations, and testing—that require additional costs to implement effectively.
School funding: the results
In Maryland, the investment in our students continues to pay great dividends. Thanks to the commitment of elected officials and the hard work of educators, we’ve seen improvements in student achievement and our public school system that are the envy of the rest of the country. These accomplishments include:
- For years, Maryland's public schools have been ranked among the best in the country by Education Week, the nation’s top education newspaper. Following an unprecedented five years in a row as the #1 school system in America, Maryland’s schools were ranked #3 in 2015.
- Maryland led the country in the growth in student achievement between 1992 and 2011, according to a 2012 study by the Harvard School of Government.
- Maryland led the nation in eighth-grade reading improvement on NAEP from 2003 to 2013.
- Maryland ranked #2 in fourth-grade reading improvement and #4 in fourth-grade math improvement on NAEP from 2003 to 2013.
- Thirty percent of Maryland students in the class of 2013 scored 3 or higher on at least one AP exam—ranking Maryland #1 in AP performance for the eighth year in a row.
- In 2013, 65,450 students took and passed an AP exam, a 56.2% increase over 2006.
- In 2014, Maryland’s high school graduation rate reached 86%, 4 percentage points better than the 82% rate in 2010. Meanwhile, the dropout rate fell from 12% to 8%.
- Graduation rates gains have occured across minority groups, growing by 4.5 points for African American students and by nearly 6 points for Hispanic students. Graduation rates have also increased for students receiving special services and for those who receive free- or reduced price meals.
- In 2013, 83% of kindergartners entered the year fully ready for school, compared to just 60% in 2005.
Thornton funding has also made numerous programs possible, including:
- Adoption of full-day kindergarten for all students and pre-kindergarten for all economically disadvantaged four-year-old children.
- Developed ten Career Clusters and a total of 48 Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs to allow students to explore a wide range of career and/or academic options in order to stimulate their planning for their own future after graduating from high school.
- Expansion of principal training to enhance building-level leadership and student health programs including Maryland Meals For Achievement, School-Based Health Centers, and Positive Behavior Intervention and Support.
- Development of Longitudinal Data System tracks student participation and performance throughout the student’s education and work career.
- Expansion of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers to 44 target programs operating in 13 jurisdictions, providing services to children and their families who attend high poverty schools or schools identified for improvement.
How You Can Help
MSEA launches a new video and digital advertising campaign asking Marylanders to urge Gov. Hogan to release $68 million in education funding included in the General Assembly’s passed budget. A broad, bipartisan coalition of educators, parents, school board members, superintendents, county officials, and state legislators have been holding local events since the end of the legislative session to urge Gov. Hogan to release this funding for our schools
“Public education came under assault this legislative session, but between incredible educator and parent engagement and pro-public education champions in the General Assembly, we were able to pass a budget that continues a strong commitment to public education,” said MSEA President Betty Weller. “Crucial funding is now available for our schools—all Gov. Hogan needs to do is fund it. He can do the right thing for our schools, or he can willingly make things harder for our students to succeed."
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.