Every Child Deserves a Chance to Learn

Policy Decisions Made in the Coming Months Will Affect a Generation of Maryland Students

Public education is part of the foundation of a strong economy. High-quality schools create tomorrow’s skilled workforce. They draw families to put down roots in Maryland and encourage companies to do business here. Public schools embody our shared understanding that every child has something to contribute to our state, and our shared commitment to providing the support children need to learn and thrive.

While our state’s best schools demonstrate what is possible when we invest in learning, Maryland’s current education system does not grant all children the same opportunities.

We now have a rare chance to change that. State policymakers are in the midst of a top-to-bottom review of the state’s education policies, and a legislative overhaul based on this review is expected during the General Assembly’s 2019 session. If this process generates effective reforms, it will yield major benefits for Maryland children and our state’s economy for many years to come.

Current System Leaves Room for Improvement

Maryland’s current education system was created by the 2002 Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act. At the time, this law represented an important step forward. Since then, we’ve experienced a deep recession that hit the state budget as hard as it his Maryland families, years of funding cuts, and increasingly rigorous academic standards. It’s time to revisit our education policies to ensure that they meet the needs of all children, and tomorrow’s economy.

As it is currently structured, Maryland’s school funding formula has three major components:

  • Foundation aid: Base funding provided to school districts for every student they enroll. In the 2017–2018 school year, districts get $7,012 per pupil in foundation aid. The state and the counties share responsibility for foundation aid, with the state paying more of the costs for the districts with the greatest needs.
  • Targeted programs: Grants intended to meet the needs of low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities. These range from $5,189 to $6,942 per pupil. The state also pays a larger share of the cost of targeted programs for high-need school districts, but counties are not required to pay the remainder.
  • Other grants: These include the Geographic Cost of Education Index, which ensures that schools in high-cost areas can pay competitive wages, and the Guaranteed Tax Base, which encourages less-wealthy districts to invest in schools locally. This category also includes grants for other purposes, like student transportation.

This current system has two major shortcomings:

  • Inadequacy: Twenty of the state’s 24 school districts do not have the minimum level of funding needed to provide an effective education, according to the state’s Department of Legislative Services. This situation is the result of gradual funding cuts enacted since the Great Recession, and is exacerbated by rising academic standards.
  • Inequity: A recent MDCEP analysis found that education funding in Maryland is currently unfair along lines of income, race, and student ability. On average, districts with greater needs are less likely to have sufficient funding to meet those needs.

MDCEP Research Shows: Better Policy Can Make a Difference

Maryland’s ongoing education policy review offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen the state’s public schools and our economy. MDCEP has published two reports advancing reforms that would guarantee a great education for all Maryland children.

Investing in Every Child: The Future of Compensatory Education in Maryland

Investing in Every Child report coverWhile all children benefit from an effective public school system, not all children have the same needs. Students who grow up in low-income families or struggling neighborhoods face a unique set of barriers that can make it harder for them to succeed in school. Compensatory education, a targeted aid program in our school funding formula, is how Maryland helps low-income students overcome these barriers. Policymakers should take three steps to improve our compensatory education system:

  • Strengthen support for high-need districts by increasing our investment in compensatory education.
  • Modernize the way low-income students are counted by eliminating paperwork for families.
  • Address concentrations of poverty by providing additional education funding in the highest-need communities.

Read a summary

Download the report


Expanding Educational Opportunity in Maryland: The Role of Funding Formulas in Increasing Equity

Expanding Educational Opportunity coverPublic schools in Maryland are a shared responsibility of state and local governments. The way that this responsibility is divided has a major effect on the opportunities available to children across our state. The current split asks more from some local governments than they can afford, but smart reforms would strike a better balance:

  • MDCEP analysis shows that Maryland school districts with lower incomes, more students of color, and more students with disabilities are less well funded than other districts, relative to their needs.
  • By improving the way income is incorporated into our wealth measure, expanding the Guaranteed Tax Base, and eliminating arbitrary formula components, we can build a more equitable education system.

Read the report