School cuts don't just hurt Baltimore, Prince George's

March 08, 2011

The Sun, in both editorials and news stories, continues to characterize the school funding issue as a fight to restore funding to Baltimore City and Prince George's County. The reduction in the "Thornton" formula proposed by Gov. Martin O'Malley affects every county. While Baltimore City would lose $187 per pupil, Allegany, Caroline, Somerset, Washington and Wicomico counties all lose $140 or more per pupil. Allegany and Garrett counties would lose more than 7 percent of their State aid in one year.

The formula embodies our state's constitutional guarantee of a thorough public education for every child. Its enactment in 2002 was a historic victory for citizen participation in democracy and unites all 24 jurisdictions, including regions of great wealth and high poverty as well as middle-income counties. The formula is largely responsible for Maryland's emergence as a leader in public education in the United States.

The vast majority of advocacy groups working on the issue are fighting to restore full funding under Thornton and are willing to accept as fair the changes that may impact individual jurisdictions. I represent a coalition that includes the American Association of University Women, Advocates for Children and Youth, the ACLU, the Arc of Maryland, League of Women Voters of Baltimore City, Maryland Disability Law Center, Maryland Out of School Time Network and Maryland PTA. We are not working for a "deal" that helps one or two jurisdictions at the expense of others. A deal puts more power in the hands of highly-placed politicians, but it erodes rational and impartial allocation of resources to meet students' needs regardless of wealth, race, socioeconomic class or region. We are working for a solution — such as extending a small tax on personal income in excess of $1 million per year — that would fully fund the formula.

I urge The Sun to listen carefully to what advocacy groups are saying and to stop reinforcing a worldview that elevates power over principle.

Charlie Cooper, Baltimore

The writer is chairman of the Maryland Education Coalition.

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