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.
“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.