MACo previously warned that unusually low public school enrollment was likely an anomaly during the pandemic that would eventually rebound, but that funding associated with enrollment would not, unless the State takes action.
When the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the country, our public schools had to quickly adjust to new and creative ways of serving Maryland’s kids. As schools moved to virtual learning, the combined burdens of working from home, managing virtual learning, and caring for family resulted in some Maryland families turned to other options for schooling during the pandemic for a variety of reasons.
The mix of hybrid in-person/virtual schooling, temporary independent homeschooling, and general inconsistency in attendance during the pandemic has resulted in lower enrollment than predicted for the last two cycles.
Enrollment plays a crucial role in school funding formulas in Maryland, with even temporarily reduced enrollments resulting in decreased State funding for Local Education Agencies (LEAs). It is important to note that while enrollment may decrease, fixed costs such as utilities and personnel costs do not have the same corresponding reduction, leaving LEAs to carry those fixed costs.
Now, enrollment numbers are starting to bounce back in many jurisdictions, as predicted. WBAL detailed the rebound by pointing to Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel, Harford, and Carroll counties as examples of upticks in enrollment. The largest increases were in Harford and Carroll counties, where enrollment climbed by almost 600 students, respectively.
Leadership on MACo’s Education Subcommittee, in collaboration with the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland (PSSAM), and the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) reached out to to Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones asking them to address the enrollment-based funding issue during the 2022 legislative session, as they had done in 2021.
As of now, no legislative fix has been introduced. Stay tuned to Conduit Street for the latest on school enrollment and funding.