The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 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.
Living up to a 2002 legislative mandate to increase funding for public schools, lawmakers in Maryland gave K-12 education a $400 million boost for 2006 over the previous fiscal year.
State aid to public schools rose from $3.7 billion in fiscal 2005 to $4 billion in fiscal 2006—a jump of nearly 10 percent.
Overall, said Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the state department of education, “there were many positives in a very tight budget year.”
The increases are part of a long-term plan that began three years ago, when lawmakers acted on the recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel on school finance and approved legislation pledging $1.3 billion more in funding for K-12 schools over five years.
This year, the legislature also increased aid for school construction by $120 million, taking the total to $250 million.
Robert Rankin, a government-relations specialist with the Maryland State Teachers Association, said that schools had been “bursting at the seams” because of the backlog in construction funds. A report from the state treasurer’s office estimated that schools would need $8 billion for construction over the next eight years.
Lawmakers also expanded a program that gives top principals $20,000 bonuses to run low-performing schools. The plan is based on a successful model in Baltimore.
Under another law enacted this year, school systems will be able to rehire retired teachers and administrators to work in challenging schools and teach in critical shortage areas, including science, mathematics and special education. Those who are rehired under the program can continue drawing pensions while receiving salaries from their school districts.