Theresa Dudley and Diamonté Brown: Underfunding Our Schools Is Undermining Our Future
National news reports recently exposed that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has launched a fundraising campaign aimed at derailing a proposal that would dedicate millions of dollars to improving public education in Maryland. This revelation, which was uncovered when media obtained a Hogan fundraising memo, is not only infuriating and discouraging for millions of Marylanders, but also suggests that Gov. Hogan is violating the Maryland State Constitution.
Fully funding Maryland’s schools and providing the resources necessary to deliver the best possible public education for our children is mandated by Maryland’s constitution. Gov. Hogan actions run directly counter to that mandate.
In the plan developed by the Kirwan Commission, Maryland has a clear blueprint to move our schools from mediocre to excellent, and the plan – which enjoys bipartisan support in the legislature – is already making real, positive changes to our schools – including increasing mental health and special education funding, boosting educator pay and expanding Pre-K and community schools across the state. Passing a new school funding formula during the 2020 legislative session is the key to making sure that there is lasting educational equity and economic prosperity in our state.
The truth is that public schools in Baltimore and Prince George’s County have been chronically underfunded for decades, and half of our educators are working second jobs just to make ends meet. The Education Law Center gave Maryland a grade of “F” for its funding effort. High poverty districts receive $800 less per pupil than wealthier districts, and the state’s own consultants said Baltimore City schools are underfunded by $342 million and Prince George’s schools are underfunded by more than $500 million every year! That’s unacceptable.
State and local governments have repeatedly ignored decisions in the courts that have ordered increased funding for public schools. It is estimated that Baltimore City Public Schools have been underfunded by $3.2 billion in the 23 years since 1996, and it is high time to reverse this trend and to begin once again investing in our children and in the future of Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. Imagine where our young adults might be today, and how much more they might be contributing to our communities and economies had they benefited from the educational opportunities that they were deprived of because of chronic underfunding.
Our children can no longer afford to wait on an administration that has consistently shown that they value corporations over Maryland’s children. The governor has falsely claimed that funding our schools will impose huge personal income and property tax increases on Maryland’s citizens.
But the majority of Marylanders do not need to bear the brunt of these costs. Instead, once the education of all our children is made a priority, it can be largely financed by eliminating corporate tax loopholes and requiring large, multi-state corporations to pay their fair share for doing business in Maryland.
The children of Prince George’s County and Baltimore City are also children of Maryland and deserve the best possible public education. That’s something that benefits everyone throughout the state of Maryland.
It’s time to stop making excuses for why we can’t make an equitable investment in all of our children, and we are calling on Gov. Hogan to step up and do what’s right for our children and the future of Maryland.
— THERESA DUDLEY and DIAMONTE BROWN
The writers are, respectively, president of the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association and president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.