Here is a news flash: Baltimore's politicians, school officials, and activists would like, please, for Gov. Larry Hogan to release $11.6 million they say the state owes the school system under the state funding formula.
"We stand here today as a unified city, once again, to protect our children from devastating budget cuts," Roxanne Allen, who chairs the Baltimore Education Association, told the cameras just before noon in front of the Barclay Elementary School. Behind her was Schools CEO Greg Thornton along with most of the city's legislative delegation and several city councilmembers. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gave a speech, and so did Marietta English, who heads up the Baltimore Teachers Union.
Educational advocates across the state have been going nuts for the past three months, ever since Hogan indicated that he would allocate to other priorities about $68 million in discretionary school funding under the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI). The legislature passed a budget restoring the money, but Hogan has not allocated it back to the school systems.
Under a 1990s consent decree, most school funding is mandated. GCEI dollars are not, though, says Steven Hershkowitz, a spokesman for the Maryland State Education Association (who previously served as spokesman for gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur). The General Assembly has passed a bill to mandate this funding as well, if Hogan does not allocate the money this year. The press conference is part of the political pressure the Democratic Party is putting on the Republican governor.
Because of the downtown development boom, much of which is tax subsidized, Baltimore City is set to lose more than $25 million in state and other funding this year under the governor's plan, according to a report in the Maryland Reporter. The ACLU of Maryland calculates the looming cuts, with inflation, at more than $35 million for the school system.
Baltimore's school budget for FY 2015 was a bit more than $1.3 billion. If the proposed cuts remain in effect, the budget will be a little less over $1.3 billion.
The ACLU of Maryland's Education Reform Project, in a handout, says the cuts amount to $4,631 per classroom. There is talk of not hiring teachers, teachers' aids, and other support staff. "I'm concerned about summer, folks," Thornton told the cameras and reporters. "I'm concerned."
"We cannot afford to short-change our people," Rawlings-Blake said. Addressing herself to the governor, she said, "write that check. You could do it today. Before the day is over."
Hogan has said the dire predictions "don't make sense" and, after touring Baltimore last week during the state of emergency, he quipped that no one he met in town asked for GCEI funding.
At the press conference state Del. Maggie McIntosh joked that, as an appropriations committee chair, even she had not heard of the term "GCEI funding." She got such a big laugh that it apparently inspired English to repeat the same joke a few minutes later.
When English said she had also not heard of GCEI funding she did not get so big a laugh.