ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed funding for education threatens to create larger classrooms and cut teaching jobs, opponents of the plan said Tuesday — but Hogan’s budget secretary said the Republican governor is open to dialogue about how to address tough financial choices his administration inherited.
Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, said Hogan’s budget plan amounts to roughly $144 million in reductions to K-12.
“Governor Hogan campaigned to change Maryland, but unfortunately his budget is going to shortchange Maryland,” said Weller, who heads a teachers’ union representing 71,000 teachers and education support professionals across the state. “His education cuts would be felt in every classroom across the state.”
The union has launched a website to enable residents to see how the budget plan would affect local jurisdictions.
David Brinkley, Hogan’s budget secretary, said the governor was faced with tough choices, because there were about $17 billion in spending requests — but only $16.4 billion in cash coming in to pay the bills. Brinkley also emphasized that the budget still provides a record amount of funding, with $290 million set aside for school construction, even if it doesn’t provide as much as schools have become accustomed to receiving in recent years.
“We had to make some adjustments across the board,” Brinkley said, adding that the governor is pleased a dialogue has begun on his budget proposal, which was submitted two days after Hogan entered office last month.
Brinkley also noted that payments on debt from previous sums borrowed by the state will soon exceed school construction funding.
“Again, we’re trying to put the lid on that,” Brinkley said. “We want responsible budgeting here.”
Hogan’s budget reduces funding for jurisdictions where education costs more by half. That represents about $68 million less in school funding for larger jurisdictions like Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and the city of Baltimore.
The governor’s budget also caps education funding formulas, not just for this year but for future years.
Opponents to the budget plan say capping the funding formula fails to take into account Maryland’s growing student enrollment of about 1.5 to 2 percent a year.
“That means the cuts will go on for a long period of time, and I think diminish all that we’ve tried to accomplish here and all the benefits that come from a well-educated workforce and community,” House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said.
Opponents also say the proposal threatens to erode progress made under the state’s landmark 2002 education funding plan known as the Thornton formula.
The funding for jurisdictions with higher education costs, known as the Geographical Cost of Education Index, is not part of mandated funding under the law.