As described by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, in 2004, the General Assembly established a formula for the geographic cost of education index, but unlike the rest of the major State aid programs, the formula was not mandated. After a patchy phase-in period, the State has fully funded the formula since fiscal 2010. With regard to how the funds are distributed, the Department of Legislative Services states,
The goal of the geographic cost of education index is to recognize regional differences in the cost of educational resources and to compensate school systems where resources cost more due to factors beyond the control of local jurisdictions. For example, personnel costs might be affected by factors like the local student population, local quality of life, and local cost-of-living. Energy costs could be impacted by different local weather patterns.
In recent years, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City have received the largest proportion of geographic cost of education funds, and this year they face the largest reductions. Montgomery and Prince George’s receive $17.8 M and $20.3 M cuts respectively, while Baltimore City receives a $11.6 M cut in the geographic cost of education distribution. Each county’s reduction is outlined in the General Assembly’s recent fiscal briefing documents.
The Maryland Association of Boards of Education have stated the following in reaction to the cuts,
The major exception to [the Governor’s] overall approach is the reduction by half of the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) program; a reduction in GCEI from $132.6 million last year to $68.3 million in FY 2016. This cut, which is at the Governor’s discretion given that GCEI is legally defined as a non-mandated program, severely reduces the state’s investment in this important program in the school systems. . . MABE supports and will advocate for sustaining a robust level of public education funding in the FY 2016 State Budget, including efforts to restore the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) to full funding.
For more information, see the Governor’s Budget and a report from WBAL news here, access the Maryland Department of Legislative Services; Education Handbook here, and see the Maryland Association of Boards of Education Green Sheet here.