Maryland lags in U.S. share of school funding

May 08, 1991|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The federal share of local school funding is continuing a decade-long drop, leaving Maryland and the other states and local communities to pick up more costs, said a report released yesterday by the National Education Association.

Maryland fell below the national average in the federal share of public education costs, but above the average in teacher salaries and the amount spent per pupil.

"Education reform is at risk as the dollar crunch hits home," said NEA President Keith Geiger. "Financially starved states and local governments are being pressured by the federal government to pick up critical education programs and other public services it once provided."

The federal share of school funding stood at 6.2 percent in 1990-1991, the lowest level since 1965. That share has continued fTC to drop since 1980, when the federal share was 9.2 percent, said the report, based on school statistics provided by state departments of education.

In Maryland, the federal share was 4.9 percent this year, down from 8.4 percent in 1980. State officials were uncertain why Maryland received less than the national average but speculated that it was tied to Maryland's relative affluence compared to other states. Many federal education programs are tied to the state's numbers of disadvantaged students.

Mr. Geiger said the NEA applauded the education goals unveiled by President Bush last month. But he said the statistics, coupled with news reports of imperiled local and state funding for education, show "some very disturbing trends."

"States and local governments have to pick up the slack," said Michael J. Werner, senior legislative analyst with Maryland's Washington office. "It's putting a greater strain on our budget."

Mr. Werner cited one particular federal program, Chapter 2, a state block grant for improving elementary and secondary education. States can use the money for virtually any purpose, from expanding libraries to buying science equipment. In 1990, the national Chapter 2 budget was $455 million. It decreased to $449 million this year, and President Bush has proposed the same funding level for next year, said Mr. Werner.

The report also found that the salaries of classroom teachers increased by 5.4 percent over last year to an average of $33,015. But Mr. Geiger said the salaries "still do not measure up to what a teacher's professional expertise is worth."

"We have lost countless thousands of outstanding teachers over the years because of inadequate salaries," he said. "Thousands more are forced to moonlight to make up for low pay."

Alaska ranked first with an average teacher salary of $43,861, and Arkansas was last with $23,040.

Maryland ranked sixth in the nation in teacher salaries, with this year's average of $38,806 up 6 percent from last year. Average teacher salaries in the state range from a low of $29,082 in Garrett County to a high of $45,080 in Montgomery County, according to Kathie Hiatt, specialist in financial reporting with the state Department of Education.

Meanwhile, per pupil expenditures also were higher in Maryland than the national average. Maryland spends an average of $6,184 per pupil compared with the national average of $5,208 per pupil.

The NEA report also found that elementary school enrollment climbed more than 500,000 last year and is expected to continue to rise at that rate until 2000. Secondary school enrollment has remained virtually unchanged.

In Maryland, elementary school enrollment in 1990-1991 stood at 424,746, up from last year's enrollment of 408,533. The state's secondary school enrollment rose slightly this year to 290,406 from 290,273 last year, the report found.

School spending

Maryland is among the top 10 states for teacher salaries and per pupil expenditures.

Teacher salaries, 1990-1991

1. Alaska $43,861

2. Connecticut $43,847

3. D.C. $42,288

4. New York $41,600

5. California $39,598

6. Maryland $38,806

7. New Jersey $38,790

8. Michigan $37,682

9. Rhode Island $37,674

10. Massachusetts $36,090

Per pupil costs, 1990-1991

1. New York $8,680

2. Connecticut $8,455

3. New Jersey $8,451

4. D.C. $8,221

5. Rhode Island $6,989

6. Alaska $6,952

7. Pennsylvania $6,534

8. Massachusetts $6,351

9. Maryland $6,184

10. Wisconsin $5,946

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