Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Does anyone remember March? It was a long and traumatic month, I know. What I do remember is Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan reveling in the national media attention that accompanied his strong response to the state’s coronavirus outbreak. Conveniently, now that the spotlight has gone dark, Hogan decided it’s the right time to enact a proposed cut of $345 million for Maryland’s public schools.
Across the country, state budgets are hurting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, slashing hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for public education is the worst thing Hogan could do to save the state money. Placing this state’s schools on the fiscal chopping block is just another slap in the face to the persistent inequalities plaguing education for both students and teachers in Maryland.
Maryland is ranked thirteenth in the nation for public education, but that glowing ranking isn’t applicable to all school districts throughout the state. There are massive embedded educational inequalities across the state’s different counties. Even among the wealthier school districts in places like Montgomery County and Howard County, education gaps between white students, Black students and students of color persist. Hogan’s desired funding cuts will only worsen these disparities.
The largest chunk of the budget cuts is a proposed $201 million cut in statewide K-12 school funding aid. All districts, regardless of wealth and diversity, would feel the strain of this decreased funding. However, these cuts will have an even harsher impact on Black and brown students.
Another component of the budget cuts is the elimination of $12.4 million in “disparity grants.” These grants are crucial for the “less affluent” school districts, which is really just coded language for Maryland’s rural counties and majority-minority districts like Baltimore City Public Schools.
Nearly half of Maryland’s Black or Latinx students attend schools in one of the three most underfunded districts in the state. Even worse, there’s no system of school accountability to incentivize change in underfunded and underserved districts. In the midst of a national racial justice movement, is it really the right call to eliminate funding that is meant to uplift this state’s most vulnerable students?
These cuts also harm the teachers and educators who are the main contributors to Maryland’s educational success and high national rankings. Hogan wants to cut $71.8 million in teacher retirement contributions, shifting the burden onto counties to match retirement contributions. It’s an unfunded liability that displays an incredible lack of respect and care for this state’s educators.
Hogan will lead a meeting of the Board of Public Works — which appropriates funding for state projects — on July 1 to propose his budget cuts. He’ll be joined by Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot. His cuts will most likely be rejected by the two Democrats, but Hogan’s desire to decimate Maryland’s public school funding will remain.
I’m sure Hogan believes he is only doing what he thinks is best for Maryland: slashing state spending in order to make up for a drastic loss in revenue. However, eradicating such large swaths of funding for the state’s public schools — and harming Black and Latinx students and hard-working educators — is an asinine fiscal bandaid for a major economic wound.
Maya Rosenberg is a rising junior journalism and public policy major. She can be reached at email@example.com.