Kirwan Formula Workgroup: Progress Toward New Foundation Amount

The Formula funding workgroup’s latest meeting included a preliminary adoption of a new “foundation” funding amount per student, but fell short of advancing any of the  remaining central (and weighty) issues of cross-jurisdictional effects and the state/local cost split.

In a meeting whose schedule was abridged significantly one day in advance, the school funding workgroup impaneled under the Kirwan Commission made some distinct progress toward a re-visioning of the state’s foundation funding program. Their preliminary decisions may enable the state staff and hired consultants to begin developing further modeling of the costs and allocations involved.

The principal working document for this last exchange was a renewal of one shared during its August 22 meeting: Building the PreK-12 Funding Formulas

The group specifically focused on the items on page 3 of the report:


The conversation, led by a hired consultant from Augenblick Palaich and Associates, centered around the additional items that would be factored into the eventual “Foundation” funding amount – a base level of funding used to drive the state’s central school funding programs.

two girls doing school works
Photo by Pragyan Bezbaruah on

The two largest cost drivers, shown above as the first two bulleted items, are both connected to teacher salaries — an increase in teacher pay scale to compete with other professions, and hiring additional teachers to enable a reduction in classroom time for each teacher. Collectively, those two items were estimated at roughly $1,800 per student. That amount is on top of the current total foundation costs of $7,250 per student.

(A more detailed worksheet of the component costs was made available to workgroup members on-screen but was not distributed to the public either in person or on the Commission website)

The fully phased-in cost of the newly rebuilt foundation program, in current dollars, would be $9,012. Adjusted for anticipated increases in the cost of living over time, the FY 2030 amount would be $11,420.

The workgroup did not vote on these assumptions, but effectively directed the staff and consultants to “work with that as a base” for ongoing calculations. These items essentially mirror the substantive policy recommendations already adopted by the full Kirwan Commission in its interim report.

Changing the foundation amount, alone, does not have any effect on county funding obligations. The workgroup has heard presentations regarding the current Maintenance of Effort law, as well as multiple analyses of local tax systems and effort, but has yet to hear, consider, or discuss meaningful options to alter the state’s expectations for or mandates upon county budgets.


Earlier in the meeting, the workgroup received a presentation on local tax capacity and effort, from the Department of Legislative Services staff. The discussion centered upon context for local taxes, particularly the property and income taxes. DLS presented various normalized measures of tax effort, relative to statewide averages.

The workgroup heard from the Department of Assessments and Taxation discussing the assessment of business personal property, various tax exemptions, and how those affect the assessable base that constitutes much of the education “wealth calculations” used for varying state share of funding by jurisdiction. Workgroup members discussed at some length the counties who do not impose the business personal property tax, and that decision’s carryover effect on wealth formulas.


The workgroup is scheduled to meet again, in another recently -abridged meeting, on September 19 – from 10:00 am to 12:20 pm, in Annapolis:


Materials and agenda from all meetings of the Kirwan Commission and its funding formula work are available online at the Commission’s website.


For further coverage of this week’s meeting, see Maryland Matters, who goes into more detail on the teacher salary discussion.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties