• Is The Blueprint Bankrupting Maryland?

    June 20, 2024
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    Republican State Senator Justin Ready thinks it is. He says the State will be going off a 'financial cliff."

    “It's a self-created hole,” Ready told FOX 45's Project Baltimore. “I'm disappointed but not surprised that we were downgraded to negative.”

    Ready was referring to the recent downgrade of the state by Moody's, the agency that gives credit ratings for a variety of agencies, states, governments, etc. Their ratings are a barometer of the financial health of those groups. States often use Moody's ratings to help boost business and investment in their economies.

    Moody’s has issued a warning for the state’s fiscal future and downgraded Maryland’s financial outlook to “negative” from “stable”. The credit rating agency affirmed Maryland’s coveted AAA bond rating, but added, “The negative outlook incorporates difficulties Maryland will face to achieve balanced financial operations in coming years.”

    Ready agrees. He calls recent increases in spending and therefore taxing as the state and local level, "Unsustainable."

    A huge part of this financial burden can be attributed to the Blueprint for Maryland's Future. The Blueprint, which adds $30 billion additional tax dollars into public education, state-wide, over the first 10 years and then $4 billion additional dollars every year after that. These increases are spread across the state's local education agencies which are feeling a huge impact to local taxes and education budgets.

    Many local school systems, in order to meet the Blueprint mandated changes in education funding have asked for huge tax increases in their counties and districts. In many cases, in order to meet mandates in certain areas, had to cut jobs and educational programs that were effective but did not meet the Blueprint mandates.

    For example, in Howard, Harford and Baltimore Counties, teaching positions were eliminated and the county's gifted and talented program, among others, may be eliminated. Baltimore County cut 300 teaching positions. Class sizes in many districts have increased.

    Ready says that the legislature needs to change the Blueprint by either changing local funding formulas or increasing the time necessary for the reforms to be fully implemented from ten to 14 years, thus spreading the spending increases out over more time.

    Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson is not interested in changes and states that the problems with the Blueprint are "growing pains."

    “There are going to be tough moments,” Ferguson told FOX 45 Project Baltimore. “But I think, in the end, the right increased investment, with the right accountability, will make the difference to make a better school system across the state.”

    The Taxpayers Protection Alliance believes that is a specious argument and believes that problems and concerns with the Blueprint should have been ironed out by now. The group's leader, David Williams stated, “I would give Kirwan( Blueprint) a failing grade on two ends. First, from the taxpayer's point of view and secondly, from a student point of view, because these services are being cut in certain school districts.”

    Talbot County Public Schools will receive $54.6 million in operational funding, which is an increase of $3.65 million from last year. This exceeds the required local share contribution by $2.6 million. In these increases are the designation of Easton Middle School as a "community school" which will require additional staffing. Easton Elementary will be in its third year under this designation and would also require more staff. The county may need to increase staff overall by 16 positions. The Blueprint adds to a situation where grants from the Covid pandemic are expiring, and the county will either have to pick up the cost of positions paid for from that grant money OR eliminate the positions.

    The amount of extra spending in education in Talbot County due to the Blueprint amounts to an additional 4 cents tax per $100 dollars assessed property value. Talbot County, unlike Maryland, receives high marks from both Moody's and Fitch.

    The county school board is currently advertising to fill 35 certified employee positions, many directly attributable to the Blueprint requirements. This is considerable in a county of approximately 4500 students.

    At the same time, the state, in an effort to justify the Blueprint, is changing its method of reporting school testing/academic data. The numbers are not matching up.

    What is clear is that the State's financial picture is dismal and will cause many problems for Maryland and its citizens in the future.

    Some of the information in this article was found at FOX 45 Baltimore - Project Baltimore and Chris Papst

    Maryland is investing billions into education, why are schools cutting jobs and programs? (foxbaltimore.com)

    Education funding pushing Maryland toward financial cliff, lawmakers offer potential fix (foxbaltimore.com)

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    Author

    Jan Greenhawk

    Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.
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