Issues 2016: The State Budget

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Education Funding and Maintaining Quality State Services: Prioritizing high quality public education and public services for all citizens and children of the city and the state.

AFT-Maryland holds as its highest priority a commitment from the state to provide enough funding to assure high quality public education and public services to all its citizens and children. To underfund any of these services not only deprives every child and citizen of the state this promise, it also would do more to widen the gap between the wealthier and those less fortunate due to circumstances beyond their control.

However, the state, in its first draft of the budget, will contribute $24 million less to Baltimore City public schools. While this is due to circumstances like declining enrollment, other counties that also would have received fewer state dollars due to declining enrollment—such as Carroll, Kent, and Garrett counties—were given extra funding above the formula to ameliorate the negative impact such a cut would produce. As the budget highlights state, “in order to ensure the resources needed to succeed while planning for the future, the Governor’s budget provides $5.6 million in one-time aid to [these] three jurisdictions that have experienced decreases in state aid due in part to declining enrollments over the past five years.” AFT-Maryland feels a similar gesture to Baltimore City Public Schools—in order to ensure the resources needed to succeed while planning for the future—be made. We ask the legislature move to reverse the proposed $24 million reduction in aid to Baltimore City Schools.

A number of other bills intended to increase aid to public schools in Baltimore city have been introduced, including SB 461 and HB 1433, bills that would expand funding for pre-kindergarten, that would help the youngest children of Baltimore City begin their education and help the state work to close the achievement gap. Bills that fully fund pre-kindergarten assure that the state fulfill its commitment to provide quality education to all of Maryland’s children. Because we know a quality education is the best pathway to long-term success and is a fundamental component of any functioning democracy, AFT-Maryland supports the effort to expand pre-kindergarten education, and supports SB 461/HB 1433 in this vein.

In addition, we applaud the Governor’s actions in this first draft of a budget to compensate fairly the employees that provide these invaluable services by agreeing to their hard-earned step increases/pay  raises. However, we are concerned that the Governor also has planned to “right size” various state agencies by eliminating hundreds of state employee positions—particularly at state institutions like the Western Maryland Hospital Center—at a time when state agencies are already incredibly short-staffed. Eliminating needed positions at a time when departments face low staffing levels actually threatens to make state government operate less efficiently, not more. The demand to provide these services to our citizens will outstrip supply, and studies have shown that, if these services are outsourced to private entities, oftentimes the quality of those services offered suffers as well.  

AFT-Maryland opposes attempts to eliminate state staffing positions, and opposes outsourcing the responsibility to provide those services to private entities.

 


AFT-Maryland Legislative Issues 2016
For more information, contact Terence Cooper, Director of Legislative Affairs, AFT-Maryland, tcooper@aftmd.org, or Todd Reynolds, Political Coordinator, treynolds@aftmd.org.