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Maryland Needs to Distribute Education Funding Equally: Report

WASHINGTON INFORMER — Danielle Farrie, research director for the Education Law Center in Newark, New Jersey, used the latest economic data from 2016 to show Maryland’s poorer school districts received $800 fewer than wealthier districts.

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ANNAPOLIS — Although Maryland received a high mark in terms of funding levels for education, it rated poorly on distributing money to some of its school districts, according to a report presented Thursday in Annapolis.

Danielle Farrie, research director for the Education Law Center in Newark, New Jersey, used the latest economic data from 2016 to show Maryland’s poorer school districts received $800 fewer than wealthier districts.

Farrie also said Maryland’s assessment of schools being underfunded by at least $3 billion annually could be more.

“Although the funding levels are high, they are not equitably distributed. That means the poorest districts are getting less funding,” she said, adding the money assessed in the report focuses on state and local funding combined and not including federal dollars.

Farrie presented a report titled “School Funding Fairness – How Maryland Compares” to the 13-member Blueprint for Maryland’s Future work group that seeks how to establish funding formulas between state and local school systems.

The group being led by former University of System Maryland chancellor William “Brit” Kirwan proposes to come up with recommendations this year before the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

The legislature already approved an additional $255 million in the budget toward the Kirwan recommendations.

The measure also allocates $725 million through 2022 with an additional $130 million if lawmakers can pass legislation next year on how to pay for additional programming.

During Farrie’s presentation, Prince George’s County school board Chairman Alvin Thornton, who led the effort more than 20 years ago to create a funding formula to bridge education equities, asked if the report includes school capacity.

No, Farrie said. “We just looked at the revenue coming in.”

In terms of ranking against other states, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Delaware all received an “A” for funding levels. Maryland and New Hampshire garnered a “B” on the report. However, Maryland scored a “D” along with Virginia for distribution of money.

Former state Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr. of Montgomery County said the current data for Maryland shows Somerset County with only 10 schools received $17,736 in state aid and neighboring Talbot County received $13,300.

“The students in the poorest jurisdiction are receiving more than the highest jurisdictions. It makes some of your regression analysts a little more difficult,” said Madaleno, who now works as the county’s budget director. “It’s hard to take Maryland into your context … when there are so many things going on. The numbers don’t reflect Maryland’s reality.”

The report didn’t offer any recommendations, but Kirwan said the data would be reviewed in more detail later.

The work group will continue to meet until 4:30 p.m. Thursday with another meeting scheduled for Aug. 22.

This article originally appeared in The Washington Informer.

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