The primary responsibility for funding public elementary and secondary education lies with the state: (1972, 1975)
- A foundation program based on a weighted per pupil formula supported from general state revenues at a level high enough to eliminate inequities.
- Some local leeway to provide additional funding for education.
- Continuation of local control over the schools.
- The encouragement of increased federal funding for education.
(see Fiscal Policy positions)
Background: The League, recognizing the need to speak to education financing, adopted a study of “Uniform State Financing of Education” in 1971. Since the consensus reached in 1972 and 1975, League members have participated on various task forces to study education financing in Maryland. LWVMD has lobbied to further the state's commitment to equal educational opportunities, assistance to needy subdivisions, a fair and equitable funding formula, and other proposals consistent with LWVMD positions. Public education efforts regarding financing of education have included the publication of five booklets/pamphlets by LWVMD: Financing Education: Questions for the Seventies (1973), Financing Education: A Continued Dilemma (1977), Paying for Maryland's Schools (1979), Maryland's Challenge: Educating our Children (1980), and Maryland's Continuing Challenge: Educating our Children (1984). The last three were funded with grants from the LWVUS Education Fund.
In 1982 LWVMD filed an amicus curiae brief in the Maryland Court of Appeals on behalf of the plaintiffs in Somerset v. Hornbeck, incorporating LWVMD's education financing positions. The Circuit Court had ruled that Maryland's system of financing education was unconstitutional because it failed to provide a thorough and efficient system. The Court of Appeals overturned that decision and stated that “the quantity and quality of educational opportunities to be made available to the state's public schools is a determination committed to the legislature or to the people of Maryland.”
In June 1983, the Governor appointed the “Civiletti Commission,” which included a LWVMD member, to assess the education funding system in Maryland and recommend changes to the Legislature. The Task Force recommended increasing the basic foundation program to 75% of the average statewide per pupil expenses.
The 1984 Legislature adopted a major recommendation (1A) of the Commission which modified the existing foundation program known as the Lee-Maurer formula and added $52 million to its funding base. In 1987 the General Assembly further increased the foundation amount and stipulated that by FY 1993, the per pupil foundation amount, shared by the state and local governments, must always equal 75% of the two prior years’ average per pupil expenditure. The 1984 legislation included provisions for additional compensatory funding for disadvantaged students. Since then a number of other programs have been passed that target students with special needs.
The Commission on Education Finance, Equity, and Excellence, known as the Thornton Commission, was charged in 2000 to review the adequacy and equity of state funding of public schools in Maryland. It recommended changes in current formulas that would cost $1.1 billion over five years. State aid would be equalized by the end of the five year phase-in. It recommended an increase in basic funding and new aid for special needs students in three categories – special education, at risk, and limited English proficient, that full day kindergarten be required, and aid for school transportation, including special education students, be increased.
- Joined other education advocates to encourage the Governor to appoint the “Governor's Commission on School Funding” which recommended a model for education financing based on adequacy, educational opportunity, results and integrated services.
- Supported bills for full implementation of the model (defeated) as well as a bill implementing grants to address the needs of students and schools in high poverty areas. (achieved – 1994, 1995)
- Supported legislation to provide $245 million (above the foundation level) over a 5-year period for Baltimore City schools. (achieved)
- Supported creation of the Commission on Education Finance. (1999 – achieved)
- Monitored the deliberation of the Commission on Education, Finance, Equity and Excellence (the “Thornton Commission”. (2001)
- Supported Bridge to Excellence in the Public Schools (Thornton Commission) formulas to provide adequacy and equity of state funding of public schools. (2002-05)
- Supported funding of the Geographic Cost of Education Index which would provide additional state funding to specific jurisdictions with higher costs than other jurisdictions. (2006, 2007 not achieved)
- Supported via budget testimony full funding of the 2002 Thornton legislation, including the Geographic cost of Education Index. Both were funded by federal stimulus money. Achieved – 2009)