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Civil Rights Groups Find Maryland Education Funding Proposal Inadequate

Maryland’s education commission’s latest proposal for new school funding has been determined inadequate by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund.

Both groups said they will continue their long-standing lawsuit against the state’s board of education to address the funding gap in schools.

The current proposal by Maryland’s Commission on Educational Excellence, also known as the Kirwan Commission, requires school districts with a high concentration of students of color and poverty to spend more on education over the next decade. Those districts are Prince George’s County, Caroline County and Baltimore City. Prince George’s County is being asked to pay approximately $400 million more a year over that time period.

“We are very concerned about the substantial increase,” Kimberly Humphrey, public policy counsel with the ACLU of Maryland told reporters Tuesday during a press conference. “And whether or not that can be met by the jurisdictions.”

Ajmel Quereshi, a lawyer with the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, said the current proposal doesn’t address the adequacy gap in funding until 2030.

“By then, students who are in second grade now will be getting to graduate. Who knows what the adequacy gap will have grown to by that point,” Quereshi told reporters at the press conference. “It’s just too slow a process for our students who need that funding right now.”

Humphrey said the state is required to fully fund schools under the lawsuit and Maryland’s constitution.

“We were really surprised recently that there was conversation that maybe the state could be supported by charities,” Humphrey said responding to Governor Larry Hogan’s seeking school funding from private philanthropic organizations. “We strongly emphasize that it is the state that must meet those adequacy targets.”

Quereshi and the ACLU said that if state lawmakers fail to pass recommendations they can all agree with, the organizations will continue their lawsuit.

The organizations are also seeking additional funding for new school construction through the lawsuit after multiple days last winter without heat in the school district.

“Schools had to close because of a lack of heat and more recently due to a lack of air conditioning in the summer that has had students miss instructional time,” said Cara McClellan, assistant counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “These deficiencies impact the student populations that are the poorest in the state.”

There will be a Kirwan Commission meeting early next month to address the public’s concern with the current recommendations.

The ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund will head to Circuit Court in Baltimore City in early December to address the lawsuit.

By Robert Thatcher

With a knack for storytelling, Robert Thatcher started Bulletin Line about a year ago. Covering substantial topics under the US & Education section, he helps information seep in deeper with creative writing and content management skills.