Legislature Approves Record Ed. Funding
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative session. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2006 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Maryland legislators passed a record-high funding increase of $600 million for schools and $400 million for school construction this year.
The state, which now has a Democrat, Gov. Martin O’Malley, at the helm, saw a congenial legislative session after four conflict-riddled years in which the Democratic-majority legislature clashed with then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, over a number of issues, including his unsuccessful proposal to legalize slot-machine gambling to provide aid for education.
The latest hike in education aid concludes a mandated increase of $1.3 billion in additional support for public schools over five years. Maryland legislators in 2003 passed a law to give the extra dollars to education based on the recommendations of a committee that looked into bringing equity to the state’s public schools.
Funding for schools will continue at the higher level starting next year, said Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the state education department. Maryland’s education budget now stands at $6 billion.
Education supporters this year pushed for improvements to the state’s high school assessments, which all students will have to pass to graduate starting in 2009. Although a bill that sought to set up a task force to study the tests did not even make it to a committee vote in the House of Delegates, the final budget bill includes language that will require meetings be held across the state to get public opinion on the assessments.
Tens of thousands of students are failing the tests, according to Daniel Kaufman, a spokesman for the Maryland State Teachers Association. Last year, for instance, 67 percent of students overall passed algebra, while 46 percent of African-American students and 27.2 percent of special education students did so.
Mr. Kaufman said the meetings will help the state take steps to avoid reaching a crisis point before the 2009 deadline.
Vol. 26, Issue 33, Page 18