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 teacher to student 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.
“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.
Starting with a radio advertising campaign and online petition drive in January, and continuing with the launch of DontShortchangeMaryland.com in early February, the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) and its members have led a session-long campaign to protect the investment in Maryland schools and restore the education cuts proposed by Gov. Hogan.