Maryland Education Advocates Pursue State Funding

ANAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) launched a new video and digital advertising campaign in May 2015 asking Marylanders to urge Gov. Larry Hogan to release $68 million in education funding included in the General Assembly’s passed budget.

“School districts are being forced to consider bad options, including class-size increases, cuts in educator positions and the discontinuation of programs while Gov. Hogan withholds this crucial funding,” said MSEA President Betty Weller in a statement. “Educators, parents and elected officials from both parties are urging the governor to move swiftly and release this funding to make sure that it can help our students and avoid negative consequences for our schools.”

The campaign included a relaunched website, which was first introduced in February after Gov. Hogan proposed cutting $144 million from public schools. The state’s general assembly restored $132 million of those cuts, but Gov. Hogan still needed to release the $68 million that comes from the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI), according to MSEA.

A broad, bipartisan coalition of educators, parents, school board members, superintendents, county officials and state legislators held local events after the end of the legislative session to urge Gov. Hogan to release the funding. The funds go to 13 jurisdictions, including Baltimore, where the cost of education is higher than in other areas of the state.

However, in mid-May, Gov. Hogan announced he would not release the $68 million. He instead plans to direct a portion of the money to the state pension fund. Maryland currently faces $18.7 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. The governor said ignoring the problem would be irresponsible.

For weeks, the teachers union, education advocates and many Democratic lawmakers demanded the governor fully fund the GCEI.

“In Carroll County, they are talking about increasing fees on parents for sporting programs, and in Montgomery County, they are talking about a reduction in 300 teaching positions. In Baltimore City, they are talking about fewer summer programs,” Sean Johnson, director for the MSEA, told Baltimore news station WBAL-TV.

State law requires record funding for education each year. The governor’s budget included $6.1 billion in K-12 funding and $318 million in school construction money. The General Assembly passed an emergency bill mandating fully funding the GCEI. Gov. Hogan said he would let that bill become law without his signature.

"We understand there are enough votes to override the veto, and it’s not worth putting people through the protracted battle with Legislature over the issue. We’ll find some way to comply with this unreasonable mandate next year," Gov. Hogan said in a statement.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake disagreed with the governor’s decision.

"I am disheartened that Gov. Hogan has chosen not to provide this basic funding for schools in Baltimore City and across the state of Maryland. Given how the needs of our children have been highlighted by the events of the past few weeks, I hoped that the governor would have agreed with the General Assembly that these dollars are critical for expanded educational opportunities," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement.