Our Kids Can't Wait
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.
Our schools need adequate and equitable funding to again be the center of our communities and foundation of our state's success. It’s time to for a new Maryland Promise to every family in the state that all of our children, no matter their neighborhood, have a great public school and an equal opportunity for success. 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.
During the 2019 General Assembly session, legislators in Annapolis took important first steps to address the underfunding of our schools by passing the Blueprint for Maryland's Future. The bill increases education funding by $1.1 billion over the next three years to raise teacher pay and implement programs to help low-income and special education students. Thanks to the bill, teachers and other educators will see their largest raise since the 2008 recession. Schools will hire more special educators and paraprofessionals to help struggling learners and students with disabilities. More than 200 high-poverty schools will become community schools where wrap-around services such as counseling and healthcare will break down economic barriers to learning. This bipartisan legislation—on the heels of the March for Our Schools, the largest rally in Annapolis in nearly a decade—is a bold first step toward Maryland’s future success.
As the state continues to address this gap and revises the school funding formula in 2020, MSEA will stay 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.
The Effects of Underfunding
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 student to teacher 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. A statewide survey of educators in 2018 found that 41% of educators work a second job to make ends meet, 91% buy school supplies for their students out of their own pockets, and nearly 70% believe that their schools do not have enough staffing or funding to help students be successful. 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.
Voters Overwhelmingly Pass Question 1 to 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 put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot (Question 1) to finally stop this budget gimmick and provide a $500 million annual increase in school funding. Question 1 passed overwhelmingly, with more votes than anything else on the ballot and by the widest margin of any Maryland ballot measure in more than 20 years. It's clear that Marylanders want increased funding for public schools, and Question 1 was the first step in making that a reality.
"It took four legislative sessions, but today the governor finally admitted that our public schools have billions of dollars in unmet needs. The truth is, Gov. Hogan has used the Education Trust Fund shell game gimmick to shift $1.4 billion away from education during his time in office. There’s some real hypocrisy in proposing legislation to make you do something you’ve refused to do on your own. If the governor really thinks this promise should no longer be broken—as he’s done four times—then he should send down a supplemental budget this year for public school funding that equals the difference between the increase in education funding ($139 million) and the amount of revenue raised into the Education Trust Fund ($503 million). That comes out to $364 million.”
“Another year, another Gov. Hogan budget that follows the policy priorities of Betsy DeVos rather than Marylanders. While more than 70% of Marylanders want their leaders to fill the $2.9 billion in annual underfunding that public schools face, Gov. Hogan continues to ignore it while irresponsibly increasing his private school vouchers plan that overwhelmingly benefits students already in private schools."
"Under the Hogan Administration, our public schools have been underfunded by $3 billion every single year—that means the average school in our state is underfunded by $2 million. This underfunding has led to larger class sizes and cuts to student programs. The governor should stop attacking our public schools and start rolling up his sleeves with the rest of the state’s leaders to reverse this shameful underfunding and make sure the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations become law.”
“This year’s PARCC scores are a reflection of the fact that our schools are underfunded. When you have class sizes of more than 30 kids to a teacher, when you have high teacher turnover rates because we underpay educators, and when you don’t address the non-academic barriers to learning in our communities of high poverty, you see achievement gaps persist. It’s not enough to talk about test scores—kids are never going to test their way out of poverty. We need more funding in our public schools to meet the needs of every child, and until then you’re going to keep seeing the same results," said MSEA President Betty Weller.
Sen. Madaleno, ACLU of Maryland, and Educators Call on Gov. Hogan to Withhold Funding for Private Schools
Earlier this week, the governor claimed the state is facing declining revenues in deciding to withhold $25 million that had been set aside for public schools, yet did not decide to hold back funding reserved for private schools. Sen. Madaleno, ACLU, and MSEA asked the governor to instead send the $5 million in taxpayer dollars to public schools to offset some of the damage from the cuts Gov. Hogan made earlier this week.