May 24 — 12:00 am, 2007

Maryland moves forward

In 2001, Maryland’s public education funding system was very similar to Pennsylvania’s: wide spending gaps between rich and poor districts, with many of the poorer districts suffering from inadequate facilities and failing to meet state standards.

Like Pennsylvania, Maryland had a very low state contribution to public education – 41 percent, compared to Pennsylvania’s 36 percent. When Maryland’s Supreme Court ordered adequacy in state funding, Maryland’s legislature created a bipartisan independent commission led by Howard University Assistant Provost Alvin Thornton. Legislators charged the commission with bringing equity and adequacy to Maryland public schools.

This commission conducted a statewide “costing-out” study, held public hearings across the state, and forged a political consensus on a sensible plan of reform.

In the last six years, Maryland has increased its state appropriation for schools by $1.3 billion, moving the state’s share to 50 percent of education expenditures.

These funds are distributed through a new foundation formula weighted for poverty, special needs, and English language learners.

Much like Pennsylvania, Maryland was far below national norms in providing early childhood education for its children. New funds have been used to make full-day kindergarten and pre-K universally available.

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