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Education Government & Politics

New Blueprint funding requirements are coming for Maryland school systems

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board convene March 21, 2024. Screenshot.

Local school systems have less than four months to begin meeting new financial reporting requirements to ensure public school students receive the resources for a quality education, under the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform plan.

The Blueprint’s Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB), which oversees the 10-year $3.8 billion plan, approved a policy Thursday that would require officials from all 24 school systems to ensure at least 75% of per pupil funding follows that person to the school attended.

That percentage must also be shown in specific categories for students who, for example, are English language learners, enrolled in special education and college and career readiness programs.

The policy, called the minimum school funding requirement, will go into effect for school systems, also known as local education agencies, or LEAs, on July 1, when fiscal year 2025 begins.

“This is something that school systems have not been asked to do,” said Rachel Hise, executive director of the AIB. “The funding is being provided based on enrollment counts and for specific students. LEAs have had tremendous flexibility in allocating those funds based on their own decisions. A portion of those monies, 75%, needs to be demonstrated that’s it’s going to support that student at that school.”

The Maryland State Department of Education is developing the financial reporting system, in consultation with the AIB. The first, full year of information will represent baseline data and wouldn’t be available until September 2025.

Meanwhile, school systems filed updated Blueprint documents last week.

In December, the board approved a new submission guide that allows more time for school leaders to develop their next set of Blueprint plans in two phases.

The first documents due last Friday required local school officials to answer detailed questions about their plans for implementing the Blueprint reforms. All the school systems submitted the documents on time.

The next set of documents are due by May 1. To complete them, local school system officials must answer 23 questions and prompts in the Blueprint Implementation Plan Development Guide created by AIB and department staff. In the documents they also must show how school officials would meet the minimum school funding requirement.

In their recent Blueprint documents some local school officials wrote that the 75% funding requirement would be a challenge.

“CCPS (Charles County Public Schools) needs to ensure specific schools are prioritized based on their needs,” according to its Blueprint document. “It is imperative that the quality of education does not decrease at the schools when resources are redistributed.”

The Cecil County Blueprint document noted 84% of its school budget is dedicated to staff.

“The challenge will be to adjust the staffing at schools where the 75% allocation will have the biggest impact on the school budget process, while ensuring an adequate level of services to all schools,” according to the Cecil County document.

The law allows the Blueprint board to withhold state funding if it deems a school district hasn’t met certain requirements on its implementation plan.

But the AIB “expects LEAs to make a good faith effort to meet the minimum school funding requirement,” according to the policy.

William “Brit” Kirwan, vice chair of the Blueprint board and chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland, asked Hise what happens in the year after the first year of data is presented. He noted that “good faith effort” isn’t mentioned in the policy for fiscal year 2026.

“That will be up to the AIB to determine how much is enough progress [from] year to year in meeting the minimum school funding requirement,” Hise said, adding that the board must also assess whether local Blueprint plans are being implemented and “are approvable.”


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New Blueprint funding requirements are coming for Maryland school systems