Reduced Price Meals on the Rise

A recent analysis by the state shows surprisingly high numbers.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WBFF) — The number of Maryland students eligible for free or reduced-price meals has risen surprisingly high, causing a $390 million increase on the cost of the state’s sweeping education reform law in the next fiscal year, according to a recent state fiscal briefing.

Fall 2022 enrollment figures showed 110,503 more students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals than in fall 2021, increasing the number of qualifying students from about 323,000 to 433,000.

Senate President Bill Ferguson told reporters Tuesday the most recent number makes up about 52% of Maryland K-12 students, noting that it is adding to the cost of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

“Normally, we fluctuate between 3,000 and 4,000 every year, but 52% of students being eligible for free and reduced-lunch meals is certainly not what was anticipated in the projections for the blueprint, but if it’s accurate we should be doing it,” Ferguson said.

The reform blueprint for the state’s K-12 schools, which the General Assembly approved two years ago over then-Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto, is being phased in over a decade. It focuses on expanding early childhood education, increasing teachers’ salaries, and providing aid to help struggling schools adequately prepare students for college and careers.