Baltimore, MD - Last Thursday, the Baltimore Education Coalition (BEC) rallied over 2,000 parents, students, teachers, and community leaders from Baltimore City to call upon Mayor Pugh, Governor Hogan, and the General Assembly to fix City Schools’ $130 million budget deficit. The BEC also stressed the need for a multi-year funding plan, as expenditures will continue to outpace projected state and city revenue before an improved state education formula is adopted.
As she promised at the rally, Mayor Pugh did announce that she will work with the Governor on a multi-year plan to increase funding to the city school system. However, she did not provide details. School principals began to submit their budgets to City Schools’ headquarters on Monday. While the BEC is encouraged that the Governor and Mayor are collaborating on a funding plan, we are concerned that the plan will fall short of the need, and that it will not be enacted in time to prevent devastating cuts at the school level. As such, the BEC urges the development of a comprehensive funding plan THIS WEEK to fix the $130 million gap.
Keiffer Mitchell, the Governor’s Special Advisor and former City delegate told WBAL Radio, “The Governor wants to help. He’s in conversation with the Mayor.”
Appropriations Chair Maggie McIntosh noted the importance of the Governor’s support stating, “We can cut department budgets to make funding available for the school system but the Governor needs to release those funds [to the city school system].”
In meetings citywide, teachers have stated that they have already started to look for positions in other counties as the city school system prepares to cut 1,000 staff. And a number of parents have threatened to take their kids out of the system. For students without the means to leave the city, harsher cuts to their schools are looming as more people seek better options in the counties.
The primary driver of the budget deficit is the state cut to the education funding formula in 2008. In a report to the Kirwan Commission last year, the State Department of Legislative Services calculated that City Schools would have had an additional $290 million in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget if the state did not cut inflation in 2008.
“This is a matter of priorities,” said Frank Patinella, Co-Chair of the BEC. “By the state’s own measure, City Schools should have at least $290 million more to reach an adequate funding level. Both the Governor and the Mayor have an obligation to do everything they can to ensure that city students do not lose teachers, and resources this year.”
In Maryland, all public school students have a constitutional right to a “thorough and efficient” education. The 2002 Bridge to Excellence or “Thornton” law guaranteed adequate funding for all public school districts, including Baltimore City. However, in 2008, the state cut the inflation factor of the Thornton law – which prevented increases in education funding to cover City Schools’ rising costs – to address a revenue shortfall during the recession. Over the past 9 years, City Schools has been flat-funded by the state and city and has made large cuts to its headquarters to address the funding shortfall. This year, City Schools has to make massive cuts at the school level to make the budget work. If additional city and state funding is not secured, these devastating cuts to the Baltimore’s classrooms will have an impact on Maryland.
“Maryland will have to pay more in the future if it continues to underfund Baltimore’s schools,” said Sharicca Boldon, Co-Chair of the BEC. “For Baltimore to become socially and economically stronger, investing adequately in its schools must be a top priority.”
Although some claim that the district has not properly managed funds, a recent audit reported that City Schools’ financial house is in good order. Keith Novak, Principal at Clifton, Larson, and Allen, affirmatively stated, “We can’t make the observation of no material weaknesses/no significant deficiencies very often when we do our audits. So that is a testament to the financial staff here at Baltimore City Schools.“
The BEC Members: Advocates for Children and Youth (ACY), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Baltimore Curriculum Project, Cathedral of the Incarnation, Child First Authority (CFA), City Neighbors Foundation, Comprehensive Housing Assistance (CHAI), Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance (DBFA), ELEV8 Baltimore, Higher Achievement Baltimore, KIPP Baltimore, League of Women Voters of Baltimore CIty, Maryland Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Maryland Out of School Time (MOST), PTA Council of Baltimore City, Reservoir Hill Improvement Council (RHIC), Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, School Social Workers in Maryland, St. Lukes Episcopal Church, Strong City Baltimore, and York Road Partnership