This Wednesday, the Board of Public Works will review a $1.05 million contract award to the firm Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates of Denver, Colorado, to perform an education funding adequacy study required by law. Augenblick was awarded the contract for the first adequacy of education funding study for the Maryland Commission on Education Finance, Equity, and Excellence (Thornton Commission) in 2002. As described in the agenda for the upcoming Board of Public Works meeting,
The Maryland General Assembly enacted Chapter 288, Acts of 2002, which established new primary State education aid formulas based on an adequacy cost study and other education finance analyses that were conducted in 2000 and 2001. The Act required a follow up study of the adequacy of education funding to be undertaken approximately 10 years later. Chapter 288 was later amended to require the study to be conducted in two phases, beginning June 30, 2014, and concluding by December 1, 2016.
Legislation that followed the Thorton Commission forms the basis of the current state education funding formulas. As described by the Department of Legislative Services,
Under the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act of 2002, commonly referred to as “Thornton,” school systems receive a basic per pupil funding amount through the foundation program. Additional formulas provide supplemental aid based on students with special needs including students with disabilities, students eligible for free and reduced price meals, and students with limited English proficiency.
The almost three-year study will review per-pupil funding and recommend an update to the Maryland Geographic Cost of Education Index. As described,
The follow-up study of the adequacy of education funding in the State is to be conducted in two phases and must include, at a minimum, an adequacy cost study that identifies a base funding level for students without special needs and per pupil weights for students with special needs to be applied to the base funding level, and an analysis of the effects of concentrations of poverty on adequacy targets. Several additional components must also be included in the study: the elements of school size and its impact on educational delivery; the role of “supplemental grants” and their impact on the integrity of the State’s education finance structure; and an update to the Maryland Geographic Cost of Education Index.
The Geographic Cost of Education Index was fully funded in the Governor’s 2015 Budget at $132.7 million. As described by the Operating Budget Analysis, “[t]he Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) is a discretionary formula and is meant to account for differences in the costs of educational resources among school systems.”