Perhaps in an effort to prevent the same kind of litigation currently underway in Ohio and New Hampshire, Maryland lawmakers recently agreed to legislation recommended by a state commission that boosts education aid by $1.3 billion over the next several years. The increase is designed to provide every child with the kind of education currently available at Maryland’s best schools and placed Maryland at the forefront of the education adequacy debate.
In 1999, the Maryland General Assembly created a commission to study schools with high test scores and attendance rates and calculate the amount those schools spend on each student. The Thornton Commission, so named for its chairman, Alvin Thornton, an associate provost at Howard University, released its report in January 2002.
According to the commission, the most successful schools spend $6,000 per pupil-over $2,500 more than the state provided. Initially, the Commission’s recommendation for the state to spend an additional $3,500 per pupil was dismissed as unrealistic at a time when Maryland faced a budget deficit.
Yet backed by grassroots campaigns launched by more than 50 organizations, state Sen. Barbara Hoffman, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, a Thornton Commission member, and former teacher, incorporated the Commission’s recommendation into legislation. Ultimately, an outpouring of support from Marylanders of all backgrounds, and a concern among lawmakers that the Commission report would prove devastating if used in court, led to the Maryland General Assembly approving the full $1.3 billion plan.