Maryland Moves Against Bullying, Boosts Aid to High-Cost Districts
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.
The Maryland legislature has acted to end bullying and cyber-bullying in schools, and supported Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s decision to increase public education funding by $184 million this year.
The budget increase includes an additional $37 million for high-cost school districts. That additional funding was an optional part of the Bridge For Excellence Act that passed the legislature in 2002 and mandated $1.5 billion more for schools over five years. While subsequent legislatures did give the mandated portion of the funding, they had not, until this year, agreed to give the additional funds to high-cost districts.
Schools will also receive nearly $330 million for school construction.
Maryland’s total K-12 education budget for fiscal 2009 will now increase to $5.6 billion, up 3.4 percent.
Educators gave the governor and the legislature points for funding education even during tough fiscal times.
“We feel fortunate that while there were a number of areas cut this year, public education wasn’t one of them,” said Daniel Kauffman, a spokesman for the Maryland State Teachers Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association.
During the session that concluded April 7, lawmakers also approved a bill that requires the state board of education and local boards to come up with policies that fight bullying, harassment, and intimidation by physical, verbal, written, or electronic means. In recent years, concerns over cyber-bullying have rocketed because of the easy access children and adolescents have to the Internet, including e-mail and instant messaging.
In November, Maryland voters will decide on a referendum on allowing slot machines in the state—a measure that the legislature approved during a special session last November after years of failed attempts. Nearly half the revenue from slots would be expected to go toward education.
Bills seeking to make changes to Maryland’s high school assessments, including one that attempted to repeal them altogether, failed. Starting with the class of 2009, all students in the state must pass tests in algebra, English, biology, and government to graduate. Of the 55,000 students expected to take the end-of-course tests in algebra in Maryland that year, about 51,000 are expected to pass.
Vol. 27, Issue 34, Page 21