Guthrie 'disappointed' that state funding won't go to schools

An announcement made by Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday that he won't allocate $68 million in Geographic Cost of Education Index funding to Maryland's costliest 13 public school systems came as a disappointment to Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Guthrie.

The decision means Carroll's public schools will miss out on $1.2 million in funding.


"I was hopeful that he would restore the funding since he did restore the 2 percent increase to state employees," Guthrie said Thursday. "I thought that might have meant that he would make a later decision to restore GCEI funding, so I'm disappointed. I was hopeful that it would happen."

Instead, CCPS will use money from its fund balance, which was $14.3 million at the end of fiscal year 2014-15, as a stopgap to get through the year, said Christopher Hartlove, chief financial officer for CCPS.

The school system will receive at least $2.6 million less in state funding than it did a year ago, Hartlove said.

Just a day earlier, Guthrie and members of the Carroll County Board of Education remained optimistic Hogan would release the other half of GCEI funding, which allocates additional money for jurisdictions where the cost of providing education is more expensive, as the board voted to adopt a fiscal year 2016 operating budget of about $329 million during their Wednesday meeting.

The budget cut 56 full-time equivalent positions to address a budget shortfall while electing to continue the ninth-grade sports program. Cuts in the adopted budget include the elimination of 50 full-time equivalent teacher positions that will not be replaced once 75 teachers retire as part of a retirement incentive plan. There will also be a reduction of six full-time equivalent positions by combining crisis intervention counselor positions with dropout prevention specialist positions.

In making his announcement Thursday, Hogan, a Republican, accused the state's teachers union of launching "a heavily financed smear campaign" against him.

"Recently, the misleading rhetoric has shifted to something like, 'Why won't the governor release the money?'" Hogan said during an Annapolis news conference.

"There is no magical pot of money that can simply be released or doled out. They're asking us to rob from the pension fund," he said.

Hogan said he has already given record amounts to education at a time when he cut spending to most state agencies, and he described the extra money as "bonus" cash that no other governor fully funded during his first year in office. Maryland spends $7.5 billion on K-12 education every year.

He said giving the extra money to schools instead of putting it into the state's underfunded pension system "is absolutely irresponsible, and it will not happen on my watch."

Hogan said he would spend the $68 million to shore up the state's pension system.

Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, defended Hogan's decision, saying Republicans worked on a budget to get the state's fiscal house in order and that involved restraining growth spending.

"Gov. Hogan increased funding over last year … even if the budget did not grow as high as some folks would have liked," Ready said."He's not willing to continue the practice of raiding teacher pension funds."

Ready said Hogan was handed a deficit and was faced with some tough decisions but ultimately the state will be in a better position once there is no longer a deficit.


"Hopefully in future years by making some choices, we can get back on track to sustainable growth. … Unfortunately, nobody likes to say we're not going to get money we would like, but sometimes you have to make tough choices."

Guthrie, who is also presidentof the Public SchoolsSuperintendents' AssociationofMaryland, said school systems across the state will deal with the shortfall in various ways.

"Some counties are going to make up the difference; for instance, Howard County, their County Executive Alan Kittleman, did announce that he will make up the difference," he said. "But other counties … will have to either renegotiate contracts because they can no longer meet bargaining unit agreements, furlough or layoff staff, or make internal cuts to programs for students."

Hogan said he would not veto a bill that next year would require him to send that money to schools where the cost of educating children is higher.

While he called it an "unreasonable mandate," he said he knows the Democrat-controlled legislature could override his veto and it was not worth putting the public through a "protracted fight" with the legislature.

Guthrie remained hopeful the funding might be available again down the road.

"I hope this is a one-year issue and full GCEI funding will be restored in the future," he said. "Next year is already difficult; this makes it even more difficult to reach our budget goals to provide better services to our students and more competitive salaries to our employees."