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THORNTON FUNDING IN LIMBO: Thousands March on Maryland Capitol to Demand More Money for Schools

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"If the state were to fund the plan, it would require deep cuts in spending on the environment and corrections."

Thousands of teachers, parents, and students from across Maryland marched on the State House earlier this month, demanding that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) keep his promise to increase education spending by $1.3 billion a year by 2008.

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 (named for its chairman, Prince George’s County school board chief Alvin Thornton) released its report in January 2002. Maryland’s most successful schools, it said, spend $6,000 per pupil per year, but the state provides $2,500 less than that amount. Maryland lawmakers, responding to overwhelming public support, incorporated the commission’s recommendations into law. The planned spending increase is designed to provide every child in the state with the kind of education currently available at Maryland’s best schools.

Although Ehrlich proposed a $326 million increase for this year, he has said the state cannot afford to meet the spending plan in future years without additional funding that legalized slot machine gambling would provide. Maryland is currently facing a $700 million deficit. Assistant House Minority Whip William J. Frank (R) agreed with the governor and said that the money to fund the plan did not exist. “If the state were to fund the plan, it would require deep cuts in spending on the environment and corrections,” he told The Washington Times.

Ehrlich has asked the state’s schools superintendent to investigate the circumstances surrounding the march on the Capitol. The investigation will focus on the decisions of at least two county school systems to encourage students and teachers to attend the march by closing schools early, providing bus transportation, and offering community service credits to students who attended and wrote about their experience.

“Thornton Plan Funding Demanded” is available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26938-2004Feb9.html

“Ehrlich Requests Probe of Rally” is available at: http://washingtontimes.com/metro/20040211-121226-2821r.htm

New Study Questions Florida’s School Funding System

 

A new study by the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research recommended that state legislators scrap or modify parts of Florida’s school funding formula, known as the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP). FEFP was intended to equalize educational funding between counties with high property values and those that were “pupil rich and property poor.” At the time it was enacted in the 1970s, FEFP was hailed as one of the greatest educational reforms in the country.

The University of Florida (UF) study took issue with two parts of Florida’s formula, the “sparsity supplement,” which gives extra money to rural counties with few people scattered over wide areas, and the “district cost differential,” which allocates more school funding to areas, often large urban districts, with a high cost of living. Both programs were started as a way to defray higher costs for hiring teachers and running schools in these geographic regions. According to UF researcher James Dewey and economics professor David Denslow, recent studies do not conclusively show that rural districts have higher expenses. They argue that the district cost differential should be changed and the sparsity factor should be eliminated.

Any efforts to implement the study’s recommendations seem likely to be met with serious resistance, at least according to initial comments from some Florida lawmakers. “I’ll chain myself to the Capitol before that happens,” State Sen. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D), told theSarasota Herald-Tribune.

Read the complete article at: http://www.heraldtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20040211/NEWS/402110403/1060

 

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