Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore superintendents ask lawmakers to restore education funding during special session

Superintendents in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore city co-authored a letter to state lawmakers Monday urging them to restore education funding in the upcoming special session.
The General Assembly passed a budget during the regular 90-day session, but did not agree on any new taxes to cover rising costs. The so-called “doomsday budget” that now stands would mean $500 million in cuts to state agencies and public schools in the fiscal year starting July 1.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) last week called a special session on May 14to resolve the impasse over taxes.

Of particular concern to school leaders is the potential elimination of a $129 million supplemental education grant that benefits counties with higher costs of living and higher rates of poverty.

The leaders of the state’s three largest school systems – Andres A. Alonso of Baltimore, William R. Hite, Jr. of Prince George’s County, and Joshua P. Starr of Montgomery County – estimate their school systems would have to absorb nearly three-quarters of those cuts.

“Our districts, combined, educate more than one-third of Maryland’s students and, within that, nearly two-thirds of the African American and Hispanic students in the state and more than half of the students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals,” the leaders wrote in their letter.

“The elimination of $93 million in…funding would disproportionately harm our students, our ability to continue to narrow achievement gaps for those students who are minorities and poor, and student performance for the state as a whole,” the letter said.

The superintendents said that the supplemental education funding has supported significant gains in student achievement in each of their districts, helping Maryland lay claim to the number one ranking – for four years running – on Education Week’s annual report of state-by-state education performance and policies.

“If we are to make good on our commitment to educating children equitably, regardless of their geographic location, we must maintain, and even increase, our investment in education,” they wrote.