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.
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.
The House Appropriations Committee’s plan will restore over 90% of these cuts to our schools—ensuring continued progress for our students—while protecting retirement security for educators. We urge the General Assembly to reject Gov. Hogan’s plan and support this better budget for Maryland.
As if cutting Maryland’s schools by $144 million next year isn’t enough, Gov. Hogan has now decided to support policies that would further harm our world-class public education system.
Larry Hogan campaigned on the need to change Maryland, but his budget shortchanges Maryland's students and schools. Gov. Hogan’s education cuts threaten the progress of our top-notch public schools, which are at the heart of what makes Maryland attractive to businesses and families. Gov. Hogan's $143 million in immediate school funding cuts—which are proposed to reoccur and compound to nearly $600 million in cuts over the next four years—would force students and schools to do more with less.
MSEA is launching a radio campaign and petition drive calling on the new governor and General Assembly to continue the strong support and forward-thinking investments in public education that have helped make Maryland’s schools and students so successful.