Maryland’s Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a $46.6 billion budget that contains less funding for the state’s public schools than its House of Delegates counterpart — and restores money for a program to send kids from poor families to private schools.
The Senate budget passed 47-0.
“It’s a fiscally responsible budget that is balanced,” said Sen. Nancy King, the Montgomery County Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee.
The Senate’s budget provides $225 million — rather than $320 million — for the first year of the Kirwan Commission’s public school funding plan. The Senate version of the budget also contains less money — $445 million — for school construction than the House’s proposal of $500 million.
Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat who is vice chairman of the budget committee, said the Senate wants to ramp up funding for Kirwan Commission programs after identifying revenue streams.
Ferguson said the budget committee is advocating for passage of legislation to apply sales tax to out-of-state online companies, such as Amazon and eBay, that sell third-party products.
“The policy is only as good as we can accountably fund it,” Ferguson said.
The Senate’s budget also restores funding for the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today program — nicknamed BOOST — which provides a limited number of scholarships for children from low-income families to attend private schools.That program was phased out in the House’s version of the bill.
Both chambers must pass a final budget by April 1.
The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education — nicknamed the “Kirwan Commission” — is recommending free, full-day prekindergarten for low-income 3- and 4-year olds; increasing standards and services so that all students are ready for college or a career upon graduating high school; and establishing a strong accountability system to oversee its recommendations.