Our Kids Can't Wait
Strong schools work for our students, our communities, and Maryland. But right now in too many places in our state, kids don’t have the same access to a great education. As the state revises 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.
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.
During the 2019 General Assembly session, legislators in Annapolis took important first steps, based on the work of the Kirwan Commission, 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.
In November 2019—after three years of meetings, research, and public hearings about Maryland’s underfunded public schools—the Kirwan Commission held its final meeting and took its final votes. The commission's recommendations include proven measures such as expanding career technical education, community schools, and pre-k; increasing educator pay; hiring more educators to increase individual attention for students and to expand teacher planning and collaboration time; and providing more support for special education and mental health services. Phased in over 10 years, implementing these recommendations would lead to an additional $4 billion invested in public schools across Maryland.
The Kirwan Commission recommendations are now forwarded to the General Assembly and governor. The legislative session begins on January 8, 2020 and ends on April 6 at midnight. Within that 90-day window, legislators will debate, potentially amend, and vote on a new funding formula and how the Blueprint will be implemented and funded. Throughout session, 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 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 2019 found that 50% of educators work a second job to make ends meet and 94% buy school supplies for their students out of their own pockets. Poll after poll has shown that Marylanders overwhelmingly want to close the funding gap in the state. For example, a September 2019 poll found that 71% of Marylanders said they favor the effort “to pass a school funding and policy plan that will significantly increase school funding."
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.
“Far too many educators are struggling to make ends meet. It’s clear that Maryland needs to do more for our teachers and school staff. Educators devote their lives to making a difference for every single child in their community, yet as a state we have allowed educators to become undervalued. The Kirwan Commission, legislators, and local officials must address this problem head-on so we can recruit and retain the talented and dedicated educators our kids need and deserve," said Baltimore County elementary teacher and MSEA President Cheryl Bost.
“We applaud the General Assembly for taking the first step in making a new Maryland Promise to every family, in every community, that the state will fund a strong public school for their children. We now turn our focus to ensuring bold recommendation from the Kirwan Commission, a YES vote on the Fix the Fund ballot question in November, and the passage of a new school funding formula in the 2019 General Assembly session that comprehensively addresses our annual funding shortage," said MSEA President Betty Weller.
“Parents and educators know the truth about how underfunded our schools have become in the last decade. The time for budget gimmicks and temporary fixes must end. The 2018 elections will be a referendum on the question of: who is ready to pass a comprehensive plan to provide our schools and students with the funding they truly need?”
"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."