School Funding

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 vaulting the state’s education system to the #1 spot nationwide.

To continue this success, we need to stand up for our students by making commitments to the full funding of Thornton, including the 1% inflation factor, and inclusion of the Geographic Cost of Education Index. As educators, we know that there is a direct connection between adequate funding for our schools and student achievement.

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 12 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:

  • In 2013, for an unprecedented fifth year in a row, Maryland’s schools were ranked #1 by Education Week, the nation’s top education newspaper.
  • 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 fourth-grade reading and math improvement on NAEP at the Proficient level from 2003 to 2011; it led the nation in fourth-grade reading on NAEP at the Basic level.
  • Maryland led the nation in eighth-grade reading improvement on NAEP at the Basic and Proficient levels from 2003 to 2011.
  • For the fourth year in a row, Maryland ranked #1 in AP performance (measured by the percentage of public school students scoring 3 or higher on at least one AP exam).
  • Maryland is #1 in the percentage of graduating seniors who scored a 3 or higher on an AP exam.
  • Since 2001, the percent of students who passed at least one AP exam grew 13 points, to 28% in 2011—the highest passing rate in the nation.
  • In 2011, Maryland’s high school graduation rate reached 87%, reaching its highest level in history. This topped regional and national graduation rates.
  • In 2011, 83% of kindergartners entered the year fully ready for school, a 34% increase over the last decade.

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.

Click here to learn more about the Thornton Plan.

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