Two Sides of the Same Coin: Education Cuts

Much of the State budget debate has focused on education funding, formulas, and cutbacks. A Capital Gazette analysis of Anne Arundel County’s effects illuminate the two sides of the same coin.

County governments and the State share the costs of K-12 education in Maryland, but while county governments are bound to certain levels of funding by State law, the State government sometimes modifies its own contribution by altering (either temporarily or permanently) education formulas, usually through budget reconciliation legislation. This year, the Governor’s budget, responding to a $750 million deficit, seeks several reductions in education funding, both in cuts to discretionary spending and in reductions to statutory formulas. And beneath these proposed changes lie other movement in formula funding, driven by student population and relative county wealth bases.

A recent article in the Capital Gazette frames the chatter of the education funding discussion and describes the specific effect that this year’s cuts could have on Anne Arundel County Schools.

With regard to the Governor’s budget, the article provides a by-the-numbers summary of the cuts and reductions, and shares how the data can be viewed in two ways.  As described,

There are two ways to look at it: How much schools would have gotten under the formulas or strictly at what you got this year compared to last year, said Warren Deschenaux, director of policy analysis in the Department of Legislative Services.

The perspective of the school system’s financial officer shows the contrast:

Alex Szachnowicz, county schools chief operating officer, said the initial proposals of the budget — drafted in December — were made under the assumption that some cuts would be made and most of the funding formulas would receive their full value; those formulas were made to keep schools treading water, not overflow the coffers, as enrollment increases and health care and retirement costs go up.

“The final value was less than what would have happened if all the formulas were held,” Szachnowicz said. “The statements are true, we are getting more per student, yes, but we aren’t getting enough to cover our cost increases.”

So, while the school system is receiving an overall increase of $9.4 million, the system is missing about $9.6 million it thought it would have.

The Capital Gazette’s summary of the education funding reductions shows:

  • $68 million — The amount Gov. Larry Hogan carved from his proposed budget by cutting the Geographic Cost of Education Index in half.
  • $63.9 million — The reduction in anticipated funding for schools Hogan made by freezing the growth of the foundation program, which delivers per pupil funding to local jurisdictions.
  • 1 percent — The cap for growth in per pupil funding going forward.
  • $9.4 million — The increase proposed aid to Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Hogan’s budget.
  • $9.6 million — The difference between what county schools got and what was expected under existing funding formulas.

For more information, see the full story from the Capital Gazette here.