After a long winter of rallies for help by City Schools families and teachers and Baltimore officials, Maryland’s governor came to the school system’s aid in the end by signing off on a new funding package.
Hogan today signed a supplemental budget bill awarding nearly $24 million in funding to Baltimore City Public Schools to help address a massive funding deficit. Mayor Catherine Pugh, members of Baltimore’s delegation in Annapolis, City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises and others stood besides Hogan as he put his pen to paper.
The supplemental funding helps fill nearly a fifth of a $130 million budget shortfall for the school system for next school year. Santelises announced that gap in late January, telling families and school system employees her team might have to cut 1,000 jobs, including teachers, and students programs if they couldn’t fill it in.
When families and staff began to organize rallies asking for help from city and state officials, Hogan was one of their initial targets. Soon after, the governor drew their ire when he suggested on WBAL in February that the school system had a problem with managing its finances. Officials and activists pushed back, pointing to audits and previous evidence suggesting other issues were responsible for the deficit.
It was Hogan who proposed late last month that the state could help fill the gap, however. In a second supplemental budget to go with the overall one for the state, he offered up more than $28 million to school systems across Maryland with declining enrollment (and thus threats of state funding cuts), $23.7 million of which is reserved for Baltimore.
The money comes with strings attached: To receive it, City Schools must agree to set up an independent self-audit and have school board members draw up a financial recovery plan.
“This bill includes vital and necessary reforms to ensure taxpayer funds are being spent appropriately and where they are needed – in the classroom,” Hogan said in a statement today. “This is what students, parents, teachers, and Maryland taxpayers deserve. I look forward to working with everyone in this room to make our schools the best they can be.”
This isn’t the only money coming from Annapolis to address the budget shortfall. Mayor Pugh and Baltimore Del. Maggie McIntosh in March announced a plan to contribute $180 million combined over the next three years from city and state sources to fight a prolonged structural deficit. That $60 million for next year in theory brought the deficit down to $70 million, and the aid approved by Hogan today brings it to about $46 million.
Meanwhile, City Schools is looking at major cuts in its district office on North Avenue that would further reduce the gap to around $16 million. With Mayor Pugh and the City Council also eyeing a shift of funding for the Baltimore Police Department to the school system, the deficit could shrink to the single digits, a far cry from the crisis-worthy gap announced in January.
Of course, this doesn’t fix the ongoing structural gap for the years ahead. The deal announced by Pugh and McIntosh suggested modifying the state funding formula to chew away at those future annual gaps by letting school districts with falling enrollment average their figures and count pre-K students to mitigate the losses. That would be a start, at least.