Howard County school system officials teamed up with the teachers' union and community groups Wednesday to call on Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to free up nearly $3 million in state funding for Howard schools in his final spending plan for next fiscal year.
The county joins a growing chorus of voices -- including the state's teachers' union, the Maryland Association of Counties and Montgomery County education leaders -- pressing Hogan not to withhold a total of $68 million that could be spent on students and teachers.
In Howard, County Executive Allan Kittleman has promised to plug the potential gap in state funding by providing $2.8 million for the school system above maintenance of effort levels in his operating budget for next fiscal year.
In all, the school system is slated to receive $776.3 million, including $544.1 million from the county. That's about $4.5 million less than the budget request Howard schools Superintendent Renee Foose submitted in January. The Board of Education voted to revise the request in March, which Kittleman was able to match, according to Howard Budget Director Holly Sun.
"The County Executive is pleased that his proposed budget combined with anticipated state funding meets the school system’s request," said county spokesman Andy Barth.
Still, Howard educators said state money is sorely needed as enrollment continues to rise. The county's public school system is expected to grow by more than 1,600 new students next year.
Many of these new students need extra support, according to Howard schools Superintendent Renee Foose.
"Each year, more and more Howard County students come to school with heavy burdens that interfere with their learning," Foose said. "We need new teachers, paraeducators and others to support these new students without compromising classroom quality. Without full funding, too many students will reach adulthood lacking the skills they need to prosper and contribute to society."
Nearly 20 percent of Howard County public schools students live in poverty, according to school system figures.
The $2.8 million that Foose and others hope Hogan will spend is part of a state funding formula called the Geographic Cost of Education Index, which supplements state aid in counties where education is more expensive.
Hogan cut funds from the GCEI in his spending proposal earlier this year, but state lawmakers found money to restore to the formula by trimming the governor's budget elsewhere. Hogan is not required to spend the extra money on education, and has said he might hold onto it amid concerns about the state's financial health.
Hogan's press secretary, Erin Montgomery, pointed out that the governor had increased spending on Maryland students by $109 million over current levels and had provided an additional $290 million for school construction across the state in next year's budget.
"Gov. Hogan is fully committed to ensuring every child has access to a quality education, and the administration will be carefully evaluating the best use of all taxpayer dollars going forward," Montgomery wrote in an email.