Background. The majority of City Schools’ funding comes from the state, based on a per-pupil formula. The current formula, often called the “Thornton formula” (after Alvin Thornton, who chaired the commission that recommended the approach in 2002), was intended to ensure adequacy and equity in education funding across Maryland’s school districts.
The Thornton formula was phased in beginning in 2002, and City Schools saw steadily increasing state funding until 2008. Then in 2009 during the great recession, the formula’s inflation factor was zeroed out and has not been reinstated – contributing to flat or declining revenue for the district.
A new formula. When the Thornton formula was adopted in 2002, the state agreed that adequacy in education funding would be reviewed again in approximately 10 years. In November 2016, the “Final Report of the Study of Adequacy for Education in Maryland” was published, based on research and analysis conducted between 2014 and 2016. The report was prepared for the Maryland State Department of Education by the independent APA Consulting firm. Among the findings in the report is that, to ensure adequacy, City Schools should receive an additional $358 million per year.
In June 2016, the state formed the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education—also called the “Kirwan Commission,” after commission chair William E. (Brit) Kirwan. The commission is now reviewing the final report along with federal and state education law and other data and information sources, in order to make recommendations “for legislative and policy initiatives to increase the availability of innovative educational opportunities, and make adequate and equitable the funding for state public education.” Legislation based on the commission’s recommendations is anticipated to be introduced in the General Assembly in January 2018. The commission’s authorization ends in May 2018.
City Schools has called on the state and city to provide “bridge” funding for the next three fiscal years (2017-18 through 2019-20), until the General Assembly has acted on the commission’s recommendations. During this time, the district will also work with local and state partners to advocate for a new funding formula that will support innovation and excellence for Baltimore’s students, and provide the resources they need and deserve.