Governor’s Decision To Withhold $80-Million From State Budget Disappoints Teachers’ Groups

$25-million would have gone to public education.

Frederick, Md (KM)  Members of the Frederick County Teachers Association say they’re “disappointed” in Governor Larry Hogan’s decision to withhold $80-million from the state’s fiscal year 2017 budget which was approved earlier this year by the General Assembly. $25-million of that amount would have gone to public education: $19-million to cover teacher pension costs, and $6-million to repair aging schools.

“This is two-years in a row that the Governor has taken funds that were set aside by the Legislature for public education, and not release the funds,” says FCTA President Missy Dirks.

Last year, the Governor froze $68-million in Geographic Cost of Education Index funding which provides additional money to jurisdictions where educating children is more expensive compared to other areas of the state. That includes Frederick County.

Dirks says Frederick County lost $1.1-million in a grant for pension offset for teachers. “With a budget as tight as Frederick County Public Schools has been, $1.1-million would have meant a lot,” she says.

In a conference call to reporters, Maryland Budget Secretary David Brinkley said the Governor made this decision because of a “softening” of state revenues from income tax collections. He also said state agencies will have to look for savings to pay for the items that the $80-million would have funded.

In a statement, Maryland State Education Association President Betty Weller said she was hopeful that the Governor would stop playing “political games” with children’s educations. “It appears that Governor Hogan is more concerned about scoring partisan points than addressing overcrowded schools, lowering class sizes and providing students and educators the support they need to be successful,” she says. ” The change that Governor Hogan has brought is an increasing record of looking for every opportunity to shortchange our students and the hard-working educators who help them learn everyday.”

But Dirks says the Board of Education did not anticipate receiving this $1.1-million when it crafted its budget earlier this year. “Anytime there’s money available that we don’t get, it’s an impact because it’s things that we couldn’t do. But they won’t have to go back and adjust their budget for the year,” she says.