Voluntary funding efforts are worthwhile, but Baltimore County schools need more support from state

Published August 24, 2018 in The Towson Flyer.

We know that our teachers are stressed financially. The recent poll of Maryland teachers by MGA Strategies for the Maryland State Education Association confirms it. Ninety-one percent of Maryland educators paid for school supplies out of their own pocket. We also know that teachers use GoFundMe and DonorsChoose to raise funds for additional classroom resources. They go to The Book Thing of Baltimore to get free books for their students. And we know they can and do tap into local support efforts like the Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap and various donation campaigns created to help fill the void.

One of these worthy campaigns is the Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) Foundation’s annual Tools for Schools school supply drive. It provides free school supplies for teachers to pass on to students whose families cannot afford to pay for them. The various “Stuff the Bus” collections around the County are part of this campaign, sponsored by friends and community partners of The Education Foundation of BCPS and residents like us. The “BCPSfest,” their free back-to-school shopping event for Baltimore County Public School teachers, will be held this Saturday, August 25, 2018, at White Marsh Mall from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

All these wonderful programs notwithstanding, Maryland teachers are still using their own money to fill the remaining void for their students and in their classrooms even though 37% of them are paying off student debt and 41% of them get a second job to make ends meet. High out-of-pocket spending is symptomatic of systematic underfunding of school systems. There’s something wrong with this picture!

A recent report from the Learning Policy Institute shows that increasing per-pupil spending by 10% increases high school graduation rates by 7% and about 10% for low-income children. The report, which reviewed research on the role of money in determining school quality, also notes that the key to using money wisely is a strong investment in recruiting, preparing and, supporting teachers. Investing in teachers resulted in better outcomes.

There’s also something wrong with this picture: We know from an independent analysis overseen by the Maryland State Department of Education that Maryland’s public schools are being underfunded by $2.9 billion annually. The Kirwan Commission’s final recommendations to address this gap will be taken up by the 2019 General Assembly with the expectation that the state will revise its school funding formula for the first time in nearly two decades. The voters of Baltimore County need representation in Annapolis that understands how important public education is to the well-being and prosperity of our community as well as our state.

Both of my children are students in Baltimore County public schools and I am PTA Vice President for my younger daughter’s school. My wife and I were blessed with good educations and they have served us well. So I cannot overstate the value I place on education. I strongly believe in public education and making sure it’s adequately funded for all students, for better facilities, and for optimal student-teacher ratios and appropriate pay for teachers and support staffs.

Education and the state of our schools is often the first or second issue I encounter as I knock on doors throughout District 42B where I am a candidate for State Delegate. The comments I receive are not about any lofty policy declarations or grandiose philosophy. That’s because our neighbors — yours and mine — know that a good basic education builds good citizens, a good society, and a good future.

Money does not solve every problem. But adequate funding and prioritizing our future must be asked of all our elected officials.

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