Civil Rights Teams Push for Funding to Deal with Inequities at Baltimore Public Colleges – Maryland Issues

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Parents and attorneys of public school students in Baltimore City, in a longstanding legal battle over educational justice, urge Maryland’s top elected officials to significantly increase funding for city schools in the upcoming legislature.

“Providing adequate resources to support public schooling in Baltimore City is not only the right thing to do, it is the responsibility of the state under the Maryland Constitution and binding court orders,” wrote the Maryland ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in a letter to Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) this week.

The Bradford lawsuit against Maryland State Board of Education was first filed in 1994. Two years later, a judge on the Baltimore City Circuit Court ruled that the state has violated the Maryland Constitution by failing to provide “thorough and efficient” education to Baltimore City students.

This prompted the city schools and the state to issue a consent decree that increased funding and reorganized the administrative structure in the city schools. Since then, Baltimore City public schools have received more than $ 2 billion in government funding from the Consent Decree and Thornton Education Funding Formula.

However, the two civil rights organizations reopened the case in 2019, claiming the state had failed to meet its responsibility to adequately fund the city’s schools. In particular, they argued that in 2008 Maryland stopped adjusting the inflation formula and allocated less funding than is required for adequate education in city schools.

According to the ACLU, in 2015 there was a $ 290 million gap between what the state had to allocate to city schools and what was funded.

As of 2017, schools in Baltimore City were underfunded by $ 342 million a year, according to a report by the Department of Legislative Services. And the school system took at least $ 3 billion to restore its school buildings and facilities. There are 100 school buildings that “urgently need to be renovated or rebuilt”. According to the letter, some of them have no reliable heating and air conditioning, no safe drinking water and no basic safety measures.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities, further leaving the city’s students behind and making adequate funding even more critical this year, plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote in the letter.

“[Baltimore City students] will return to schools that the state has estimated to have been chronically and systemically underfunded for more than a decade, ”Ajmel Quereshi, senior counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told a news conference Wednesday.

The state was legally due to revise its school funding formula in 2012, but that process has been continually delayed, said Frank Patinella, senior education attorney at Maryland ACLU. Starting in 2016, the Commission for Innovation and Excellence in Education met to revise the state’s education funding formula and recommend a range of reforms in the field of public education. The Commission’s final recommendations were adopted by legislators in 2020, but that bill was rejected by Hogan.

“We are now approaching the 2021 school year and the pandemic has exacerbated the impact of chronic underfunding and disparate academic outcomes in Maryland schools,” said Patinella.

Keysha Goodwin, a parent of a high school student in town, said the “unfortunate conditions” in public school buildings, including mold, mildew and lead, made them cautious about sending their son back to school.

“I would expect our government to invest in our youth quickly,” she said. “You can invest in Under Armor, you can invest in a juvenile detention center. So please do what to do, support the blueprint and invest in our youth. “

The Bradford case is pending and pending in Baltimore City Circuit Court. Since the process is unlikely to begin before the end of this school year, plaintiffs are calling on heads of state to increase resources for city schools in the upcoming legislature.

First, they call on the General Assembly to lift Hogan’s veto on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (the Education Reform Act) and the Built Learning Act, which would have provided $ 2.2 billion in additional school building funding across the state. The blueprint bill would have helped close, if not entirely, the funding gap for city schools, plaintiffs said.

The revenue from online sales tax has generated enough revenue to fund the education reforms included in the Blueprint Act through fiscal 2026, legislative analysts said this week. The state also has a surplus in its Rainy Day Fund, which is over $ 1 billion, he continued.

Legislators should also pass laws to provide immediate funding to low-income families, English learners, and special needs students in Baltimore City and to prioritize funding for counties with the greatest adequacy gaps, including Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, and Caroline Counties. said the groups.

Plaintiffs are also calling for a fiscal 2022 budget that includes “bridge funding” to help school districts fill gaps in their budgets while they wait for the blueprint to be fully funded.

The state should also provide additional funding to address the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to reimburse districts that have devoted significant amounts to implementing virtual learning, the plaintiffs wrote. Additional tutoring, adequate computing equipment, and Internet services are essential for students with the greatest learning loss, Patinella said.

In addition, school districts should be held harmless for declines in enrollment due to the pandemic, which would otherwise trigger a loss of funding, Patinella said.

“We urge you to view the 2022 fiscal year budget and legislative period as an opportunity to recognize the lack of resources for city schools, to stop the impact of underfunded education on generations, and to make these communities whole before that Court has the opportunity to act on the second petition of the plaintiff in court, “concluded the plaintiffs in the letter.

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