April 2, 2013

CONTACT: Meredith Curtis, Communications Director, 410-889-8555; 

ANNAPOLIS - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland opposes the inclusion of an additional $500,000 in the state's supplemental budget as a taxpayer subsidy for private and religious schools. This increase comes on top of the Governor's $1.1 m. increase in the budget now being considered by the budget conference committee.  There is a briefing scheduled on the supplemental budget for 2 pm today in the House Appropriations Committee. 

"Taxpayer funding should not be used for textbooks and technology at private and religious schools, especially when the state's fiscal climate that is just beginning to recover," said Sara Love, Public Policy Director for the ACLU of Maryland.  

The Maryland constitution makes only three requirements of the General Assembly: to pass a balanced budget, to pay its debts, and to provide for a "thorough and efficient" free school system.  Our public funds should be dedicated to public schools. 

Our public schools serve the vast majority of students in this state and must hold to state standards of curriculum and non-discrimination. And despite making great gains in recent years as the Bridge to Excellence Act is implemented, Maryland has been forced to pull back from its Thornton promise by significantly reducing funding provided to public schools: education funding is estimated to be over $700 m. less per year than under the original formula.  

Full Thornton funding is still urgently needed by Maryland's public school children.  Maryland continues to find it challenging to address the need for smaller class sizes, better English as a second language programs, and assistance for gifted as well as more poorly performing students, as well as the technology that will be needed to implement the Common Core Standards. 

As the legislature continues to cap at 1 percent any inflation increase for Thornton funding, elected leaders should eliminate this program and reinvest the savings in public schools.  It is unfair to Maryland's public school students and to Maryland's taxpayers to provide resources to private schools when public schools are being told to wait on basic operating budget needs.


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