As Maryland lawmakers consider whether to bail out Baltimore schools — which are facing a $129 million budget deficit — a new study says the state is not paying its fair share to educate city students.
The study, released this month, determined Maryland needs to spend more in every jurisdiction — a total of $2.6 billion a year — to provide adequate education for all students.
But the imbalance is greatest in poor areas like Baltimore, which the consultants said is already shouldering more than it can afford.
Consultants hired by the Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education to review state education spending recommended a new, complex formula to distribute enough money to educate students.
Under that formula, the state would give Baltimore an additional $434 million a year for education, and the city would pay $5 million less than it currently does.
The proposal calls for a 70 percent increase in state contributions to city schools and a 3 percent decrease in contributions from city government.
Already, the state contributes nearly three-fourths of the city school system's budget.
The consultant's last study in 2001 ushered in the Bridge to Excellent Act, which gave public schools statewide $1.6 billion in additional money between 2002 and 2008.
But the new conclusions by the firm Augenblick, Palaich and Associates encourage a much more expensive price tag. It also comes as the state faces an approximately $800 million budget shortfall.
Lawmakers questioned whether an additional $2.6 billion each year was necessary, and whether there were less costly ways to improve education.
Advocates for increased spending note that poor schools took a disproportionate hit during the recession. Lawmakers eliminated or curtailed annual inflation adjustments when calculating how much to give schools.
In places like Baltimore and poor, rural counties on the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland — where state money makes up the majority of school budgets — the effect is greater.
The consultant's study is advisory, and meant to inform decisions the General Assembly will make about how the state will pay for education. No wholesale changes to state funding formulas are expected next year.
But the study's conclusions hover as lawmakers decide to what extent they are willing to help Baltimore.