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Adequacy gap is closing in Maryland schools

January 17, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - The gap between how much money the state spends on education and how much it needs has closed in the last five years, according to a report presented Tuesday.

The "adequacy gap" change holds true for Washington County, which improved from 83 percent of the funding it needs to 93 percent, the report shows.

Statewide, the level went from 86 percent to 97 percent over that period.

State lawmakers heard a school funding update Tuesday during a joint hearing between the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and two House committees, Appropriations and Ways and Means.

Mark Collins and John Rohrer of the state's Department of Legislative Services summarized for the committees how school funding has changed since the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act passed in 2002.

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"The statewide adequacy gap" - which was more than $1.1 billion - "has been reduced by 77 percent since fiscal 2002 to $266 million in fiscal 2007," the written report says.

The report defines "adequate" funding as "sufficient to acquire the total resources needed to reasonably expect that students can meet academic performance standards."

Of the state's 23 counties and Baltimore City, 14 counties met their targets for adequate funding in fiscal 2007. Seven met targets last year and two in fiscal 2002, the report says.

The Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act in 2002 was based on recommendations from a commission led by Alvin Thornton. The commission called for $1.1 billion more in state funding for education.

As a result, the mix of education funding changed from 54 percent local and 40 percent state in fiscal 2002 to an estimated 48 percent local and 47 percent state in fiscal 2008, the report says.

Federal funding makes up the difference both years.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, said after the presentation that he supports the Thornton plan.

"Many counties have used this to enhance teachers' salaries," he said.

However, Myers questioned how academic progress is being measured, noting that the state changed the standardized tests it uses.

"It's all good news," he said. "But people think we need to get there faster than we are."

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