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October 15, 2019

BALTIMORE –The legal team representing concerned parents and students in Baltimore City has written to members of the Kirwan Commission urging them to directly and fully address racial and wealth inequities. The Maryland Constitution requires the Kirwan Commission to allocate adequate funding to the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS), and similarly situated jurisdictions. Yet, proposed changes to the plan are insufficient to address the systemic underfunding in the district. According to the state Department of Legislative Services, the gap between what was judged by the State to be required for BCPSS to provide a quality education and what was actually funded – was $342 million in FY 2017. Over time, Baltimore City students have been deprived of over $2 billion in constitutionally required funding. 

Baltimore City parents and students are represented in the historic Bradford v. Maryland State Board of Education lawsuit by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (NAACP LDF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, and BakerHostetler. Since the recession in 2008, Maryland stopped adjusting the Thornton formula for inflation, which led to millions in lost funds for low-wealth districts like Baltimore City, where the cumulative effect of generations of underfunding requires systemic investment to constitutionally address. 

“The Kirwan Commission should recognize and be guided by the reality that the Maryland Constitution explicitly requires the State to provide all students – including those in Baltimore – an adequate education,” said Ajmel Quereshi, Senior Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “The Commission’s work is a chance to correct over a decade of unconstitutional underfunding.”  

The Bradford plaintiffs and legal team welcome the Kirwan Commission’s Formula Workgroup’s stated commitment to addressing disparities by reshaping educational services, focusing on early learning, and accounting for inflation in funding projections. However, more intentional investment is needed to address racial and wealth gaps. 

“The Kirwan Commissioners empowered to create a new education system in Maryland must understand that education is a state constitutional right for all our children,” said Dana Vickers Shelley, Executive Director of the ACLU of Maryland. “The Black and Brown children who have been failed by the State of Maryland for generations must have their education needs fully addressed in the new Kirwan plan so they, too, can realize their dreams.”

The Bradford plaintiffs are represented by Elizabeth B. McCallum from BakerHostetler; Ajmel Quereshi and Cara McClellan from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; and Deborah Jeon from the ACLU of Maryland. 

See an interactive timeline, videos, and legal documents for Bradford v. Maryland State Board of Education here.