For next year, local school systems will receive about $92 million in extra aid, with most of that money coming from an increase of 34 cents per pack in the state cigarette tax.
That money is in addition to the $161 million in increased public schools money included in the governor's budget.
By 2007-2008, the $2.9 billion being spent this year by the state on schools is to increase by $2.2 billion.
About $1.3 billion of that is due to the Thornton plan, with the remainder of the increase required by current law.
FOR THE RECORD - The original published version of this story about school funding incorrectly stated the frequency of votes the General Assembly must take to affirm that money is available for a landmark $1.3 billion public schools funding formula. According to the Thornton law, the legislature will vote just once, during the 2004 Assembly session.
City, rural schools win
Schools in Baltimore - which have received large boosts in state aid during the past five years - would continue to be among the biggest winners, as the commission sought to give extra resources to children who live in poverty and have extra needs.
Systems in Maryland's rural areas also would see large increases in their per-pupil support from the state.
By contrast, the Thornton plan called for wealthier areas to receive far less extra aid. But after Montgomery County lawmakers and educators called the plan unfair, changes were made to direct additional money to Montgomery and other more affluent jurisdictions.
"We can now see on the horizon the potential for every child in Maryland, whether they live in East Baltimore, West Baltimore or Takoma Park, having the ability to attend a neighborhood school and have a high-quality education," said Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat and House majority leader.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan praised the agreement as enabling his system to "put the extra resources in the schools with the kids who need the most help."
Threat of lawsuits lifted
Pressure to approve the legislation was intensified when the Thornton Commission concluded that Maryland isn't meeting its constitutional obligations for public education - providing ammunition for potential lawsuits threatened by poorer jurisdictions.
Such suits have been the motivation behind major education financing changes in New Jersey and Kentucky.
"This is a historic moment for Maryland, that we were able to accomplish this without litigation," said Christopher N. Maher, education director of Advocates for Children and Youth.
"We're not doing it because we have to. We're doing it because it's the right thing to do."
Opponents say the plan's huge cost all but guarantees either a tax increase or the legalization of gambling - or both - to find $1.3 billion in extra revenue per year.
Supporters were confident that the money can be found.
A commission is expected to be approved by the General Assembly to study Maryland's revenue structure and recommend ways to pay for education, transportation and health care needs.
New money for schools
Per-pupil spending by the state already is scheduled to rise over the next six years, but it would go up much more under the Thornton Commission legislation expected to be approved by the General Assembly.
2001-2002 2007-2008 2007-2008
(Current law) (Thornton)
Baltimore ............ $6,073 ..... $8,311 ..... $11,381
Anne Arundel ...... $2,733 ..... $3,394 ..... $4,216
Baltimore Co. ...... $2,960 ..... $3,979 ..... $5,153
Carroll ................... $3,264 ..... $4,149 ..... $4,995
Harford ................. $3,315 ..... $4,162 ..... $5,136
Howard .................. $2,637 ..... $3,194 ..... $4,000
Montgomery ......... $2,084 ..... $2,778 ..... $3,879
Prince George's .. $3,921 ...... $5,344 ..... $7,998
State avg. .............. $3,493 ..... $4,487 ...... $6,043