Capital Recap

By Catherine Gewertz — July 17, 2012 2 min read

The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2011 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.


Social studies education drew the attention of Maryland lawmakers in the regular legislative session that wrapped up in April.

35 Democrats
12 Republicans
98 Democrats
43 Republicans
1.4 million

They reinstated a requirement that seniors pass a test in U.S. government to get their diploma, and required the state board of education to adopt middle school tests in core subjects, including social studies, beginning in 2014-15. The state must also survey how much instructional time is spent on social studies and science in elementary school.

A new law requires Maryland counties to maintain their levels of year-to-year spending on education or risk having the state comptroller withhold a portion of their county tax collections and send it directly to school boards. Lawmakers also shifted responsibility for a portion of teacher pensions from the state to the counties, and raised the age of mandatory school enrollment from 16 to 17 in 2015, and to 18 in 2017.

The $14.6 billion fiscal 2013 budget includes $5.5 billion for precollegiate education, compared with $5.75 billion the previous year.


Gov. Robert F. McDonnell had hoped to revamp teacher tenure and evaluation, but the Republican was disappointed. A proposal to extend teachers’ probationary period from three to five years and replace their continuing contracts with three-year contracts failed in the legislature. That measure would have allowed administrators to let teachers go without explanation when their contracts were up.

20 Democrats
20 Republicans
32 Democrats
67 Republicans
1.8 million

Legislators, who concluded their regular session in March, approved a law requiring students to take one online course to graduate from high school. But they refused to repeal—despite Gov. McDonnell’s urgings—a 30-year-old law that requires school to begin after Labor Day. The lawmakers did enact a McDonnell-backed measure requiring districts to provide targeted help to 3rd graders struggling to master reading skills.

The legislature created a program that gives tax credits to people who donate to organizations that provide tuition scholarships to nonpublic schools for disadvantaged students and those with disabilities. In the face of a challenge by a Democratic lawmaker, Virginia’s attorney general found the program to be constitutional.

The $85 billion biennial budget for fiscal years 2013 and 2014, signed in June after a special legislative session, includes $11.7 billion for precollegiate education, compared with $10.8 billion in the previous biennium.

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A version of this article appeared in the July 18, 2012 edition of Education Week as Capital Recap