County boards of education and superintendents are seeking additional school funding from the state via a supplemental budget request totaling $134 million for compensatory education.
In a March 18 letter to Governor Larry Hogan, the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland (PSSAM) and the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) indicated that temporary drops in enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a particular difficulty in measuring student poverty during this time, has left school systems across the state with a potential gap in funding.
From the letter:
Due to the pandemic, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has provided waivers over the past two school years that have allowed all students to eat breakfast and lunch for free. While we are extremely appreciative of this benefit, a consequence was that parents did not have to fill out the traditional Free and Reduced Meals (FRMS) documentation. Therefore, it has been difficult to identify students who qualify for FRMS that are not identified through direct certification. While we have seen a 3% decline in K-12 enrollment overall, there has been a 13% decline in FRMS identified students since the start of the pandemic. This has led to reductions in the compensatory education funding for school systems across Maryland.
As the Maryland local education agencies (LEAs) have been developing and submitting their budget requests to their boards and local governments, the actual funding losses have become painfully clear and are startling. While the $57 million you provided to help offset these losses is tremendously appreciated, unfortunately, it does not come close to recouping the loss in funding we are uncovering. To be clear, this loss is a function of a change of federal policy, as well as the result of our state’s education funding formulas that heavily rely on enrollment counts and FRMS identified students. In fact, we know most of these families are not “lost,” and it is highly likely that our compensatory education student population has actually grown as a result of the pandemic.
In total, schools are requesting approximately $134 million in supplemental funds for fiscal year ’23, with increases in state funding going to each of Maryland’s 24 counties:
To address this issue, we are requesting a supplemental FY ’23 appropriation totaling approximately $134 million. The attached table details the additional funding requested for each district. Our $134 million request was calculated by using the greater of an LEA’s compensatory education/FRMS identified students from 10/31/19, 10/31/20, or 10/31/21, multiplied against the state share of compensatory education. This approach ensures that each of the twenty-four LEAs will receive additional funding. We have calculated this with our best available data but would be happy to work with DBM and MSDE to verify each appropriation. We expect this to be a one-time hold harmless request, as the USDA waiver providing free meals to all students is expected to sunset as the end of this school year.
Additionally, schools are also requesting a supplementary budget allocation for $76.5 million to offset the FY ‘23 increase in the local share of teacher retirement.