Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, members of the Baltimore delegation of the General Assembly and Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) CEO Sonja Santelises stood united at a news conference in Annapolis on Feb. 27 petitioning Governor Larry Hogan to partner with the City of Baltimore to fill a $130 million gap in public school funding.  

Pugh said that the funding shortfall facing BCPSS is due to a systemic flaw in the state formula that determines public school funding.

Students attend a rally in support of the state of Maryland filling the budget shortfall the Baltimore public school system is facing. (Courtesy photo)

Students attend a rally in support of the state of Maryland filling the budget shortfall the Baltimore public school system is facing. (Courtesy photo)

“We’ve had discussions over the last few days around what we must do as a city and as a state to ensure the success of our children. We do know that fixing the formula as it relates to our children is not a one -year fix, we can’t do it in a year,” Pugh said.

“But we do know that when the formula was established it was established to help jurisdictions such as Baltimore to be whole,” she said.

The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, known as the Kirwan Commission, was created by the Maryland General Assembly in 2016 to make recommendations about K-12 issues, including the development of updated per-pupil funding levels and creating equity in education funding.

Recommendations from the Kirwan Commission are due in December but must work their way through the legislative process, said Pugh.  While the formula is being revised, Pugh and State legislators are petitioning the Governor to make a three-year commitment to bridge a BCPS funding gap that will reoccur each year, based on the current formula.

Maggie McIntosh, State Delegate (MD-43) and Chair of the House Appropriations Committee confirmed that negotiations were underway with Governor Hogan.  She said the General Assembly had less than a month for Hogan to decide on a commitment to BCPSS.  

“We have to hear something with in the next three weeks,” McIntosh said.

“They seem interested and they did it last year,” McIntosh said. “Funding public education is a constitutional duty of the state.”

Robbyn Lewis, a newly appointed Maryland 46th delegate said, “All of us in the 46th district are absolutely committed to supporting the Mayor, our schools and the legislative process here in Annapolis to keep our kids in the best educational environment.”

BCPSS CEO Sonya Santelises said she was encouraged by the City’s commitment to working with state officials toward a comprehensive three-year commitment to City Schools, until the Kirwan Commission recommendations are in place.

“I’ve said a one-year solution is not going to do us any good. If we can get a three-year commitment to funding to get us to a new funding formula, then we can get back to the core work of the school system which is educating young people,” Santelises said.   

“While there were no specific numbers today, what’s particularly encouraging today is the way that the Mayor sees this as a long-term challenge, not just a one-year fix for FY 2018,” Santelises told the AFRO.  

The current $130 million deficit has left the city’s public school teachers and students in limbo about projected layoffs for the 2017-2018 school year.  While Santelises said she is buoyed by the prospect of a city-state solution to the budget deficit, she said she must continue with plans to balance next year’s budget “until the agreements are in place and the ink is dry”.

“The important thing today is that we see a coalition of people working on it.  In large part this is because of the commitment of our leaders but also the advocacy of our families,” she said.