K-12 public schools in Maryland enroll approximately 845,000 students, with 35% in poverty, 5% learning English, 54% minorities, and annual expenditures of more than $11 billion. (Most recent NCES and MSDE data)
The Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, found in 1983 that the state constitution does not require equality in education spending, but the court has not addressed the question of whether the constitution requires adequate school funding. Maryland entered into a Consent Decree regarding Baltimore City Public Schools in 1996, and the trial court continues to monitor the state’s compliance with the decree.
The state continues to be required to comply with a Consent Decree and an order of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City regarding Baltimore City Public Schools, and the court continues to exercise jurisdiction over the case to ensure compliance. The case has not seen any recent activity however; the most recent filings were submitted more than three years ago.
In 1983, in Hornbeck v. Somerset Cty. Bd. of Educ., the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the state constitution does not require exact equality in funding and that local control was a "rational basis" underlying the state’s funding statutes. The court emphasized that plaintiffs had not alleged that the state input standards were inadequate or that the standards were not being met, thereby suggesting that the court might be receptive to a claim that students were not receiving an adequate education.
In 1994, in Bradford v. Maryland State Bd. of Educ., parents and students in the Baltimore City school district challenged the state’s alleged failure to provide resources sufficient to enable Baltimore schools to meet contemporary education standards, especially with respect to at-risk students. Before trial began, the parties settled and entered into a Consent Decree. The trial court continues to exercise jurisdiction over the case, and has on multiple occasions ordered the state to provide additional funding.
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"The General Assembly …shall by Law establish throughout the State a thorough and efficient System of Free Public Schools; and shall provide by taxation, or otherwise, for their maintenance." Md. Const. art. VIII, § 1.
In Hornbeck v. Somerset Cty. Bd. of Educ., the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, held that “the "thorough and efficient" language of § 1 does not mandate uniformity in per pupil funding and expenditures among the State's school districts,” 458 A.2d 758, 776 (1983). “Nor do these words impose upon the legislature any directive, in its establishment of the public school system, to so fund and operate it that the same amounts of money must be allocated and spent, per pupil, in every school district in Maryland,” the court further concluded, “at most, the legislature is commanded by § 1 to establish such a system, effective in all school districts, as will provide the State's youth with a basic public school education.” Id. However, the court did suggest that the state had a responsibility to make efforts “to minimize the impact of undeniable and inevitable demographic and environmental disadvantages on any given child.” Id. at 780.
None. However, the Bradford v. Maryland State Bd. of Educ. litigation appears to have been instrumental in motivating the state to substantially overhaul its school funding system and early education programs. The Thornton Commission (Commission on Education, Finance, Equity, and Excellence) was created by legislation in 1999 and issued its final report in January 2002. Based on the Commission’s recommendations, the General Assembly enacted the 2002 "Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act," which implemented significant educational reforms, including expansion of prekindergarten programs for all at-risk children and creation of full-day kindergarten throughout the State.
Education Law Center, along with other organizations, submitted an amicus brief in Bradford v. Maryland State Bd. of Educ. which discussed the role of the courts in enforcing the state’s duty under the education article of the Maryland constitution.
The Maryland Prekindergarten Program is rated an exceptionally high 9 out of 10 on the established quality indicators. It served 35% of 4-year-olds in 2009-2010.
The Maryland Department of Education recognizes public prekindergearten programs have a positive effect on student’s performance throughout elementary school and middle school, and decreases placement in special education classes.
The Maryland Prekindergarten Program stemmed from regulations promulgated in 2002 that required county boards of education to provide pre-K to all economically disadvantaged 4-year-olds by the 2007-2008 school year. The program is administered by the Maryland State Department of Education. Funds for the pre-K program are allocated to the county boards of education, which then distribute them to local school systems. The regulations implementing the program allow school boards to contract with private child care centers and Head Start agencies that have state or national accreditation and approved nonpublic schools. These programs must meet the same quality standards as a public school pre-K program.
All 4-year-olds who qualify for federal free or reduced price lunch or who are homeless are eligible for the program. Additionally, other 4-year-olds, including special education and English language learner students, who would not otherwise qualify but who represent a student population that exhibits a lack of school readiness may be admitted as space permits. Furthermore, local school boards may adopt a regulation to admit 3-year-olds who show “capabilities warranting early admission,” if requested by a parent or guardian.
The pre-K program is a half day program which runs during the academic school year. Local districts may choose to establish all day programs.
The Pre-K Program has been funded by grants from the Maryland State Department of Education to county boards of education.
These programs are funded through the state aid formula, with the funds used for pre-K coming out of each county’s state aid formula grants for compensatory education (based on the number of students eligible for free or reduced price meals), limited English proficiency, and special education.
Maryland also provides funding from an apportionment of the State budget to the Judy Center Partnerships. These partnerships collaborate with selected schools with early care and education centers to serve children from birth to age 5 in order to enhance learning opportunities. The Judy Center grants are administered by the local school district.
In addition, Maryland provides funds to supplement Head Start programs.
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), Maryland served 35% of all 4-year-olds in its state preschool program in 2009-2010.
The program meets an exceptionally high 9 out of 10 benchmarks.
The program requires teachers have a Bachelor’s degree and a specialization in pre-K. The program does have a limited class size, an appropriate student to teacher ration, and screening and referral services. In addition, there is a monitoring and site visit program and at least one meal a day is provided to participants.
The program does not require that teacher assistants have Child Development Associate degree, failing this NIEER benchmark.
Maryland requires program evaluation through student assessment. Student academic, social and physical development is measured through a Department-approved kindergarten readiness assessment system. This information is then used to evaluate program effectiveness on an annual basis.