Education advocates ask Assembly not to cut funds


November 18, 2008|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,

Worried that the Maryland General Assembly might decide to cut school funding during this economic downturn, education advocates urged legislators yesterday not to balance the budget by reducing money for education.

The governor has not proposed any reductions recently, but advocates held a news conference asking legislators not to make any changes in the money schools receive under the Thornton funding formula passed in 2002.

From 2002 to 2008, state aid to education increased by 75 percent, with the state providing $1.3 billion more than it was five years ago. Under the legislation, state aid was to increase because of inflation, but in 2007 the legislature decided to hold education funding increases in the next two years to 1 percent each year. Some of the largest school systems in areas where the cost of living is the greatest were supposed to get a slight increase, but that was held to 60 percent of the cost-of-living increase last year.

But education advocates say the legislature could always keep the funding flat, which they argue would be a cut in funding because costs are rising. "Am I asking that school receive special treatment? Yes," said Andres Alonso, chief executive officer of the Baltimore school system at a news conference at the North Avenue school headquarters.

The Maryland State Teachers Association began airing a 30-second television advertisement Sunday night highlighting the gains made since local school systems were given additional money through the Thornton legislation.

"It is tempting for them to say, 'We have spent enough, and we can't afford to spend anymore,' " said MSTA President Clara Floyd. But, she said, now "is precisely the wrong time" to reduce spending because it would negate the gains that have been made.

Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the Maryland PTA and the Maryland Association of Boards of Education also spoke.

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