- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 14, 2002

Two years ago, a Maryland task force started work with an ambitious goal to determine how much the state had to spend to give each student an "adequate" education.
That meant ensuring the poorest districts could educate students as well as the richest ones and providing extra funding for special-needs programs. It required money lots of money to give students and schools resources to reach tough state-imposed standards and accountability measures.
The commission reported it would cost at least $6,000 per student close to double the $3,500 the state now spends to provide adequate education. The prospects of adding that much money were dim with an already tight state budget this year.
While it has taken lawsuits in other states to force adequate funding, Maryland is the first to do so willingly. The state legislature passed a landmark bill increasing education spending by more than $1.3 billion during the next five years.
"It's the only state that has taken the results of a study and changed the law," said John Augenblick, a school-funding consultant who helped Maryland develop its plan. "We hope it is a trend."
Several other states have conducted their own adequate-funding studies similar to Maryland's. In Kansas, Mr. Augenblick says, the legislature is studying a funding plan without the threat of legal action.
When setting aside money for schools each year, states typically budgeted spending increases for money they already had without raising new funds through taxes or cuts in other programs.
But when states implemented accountability measures blanket standards, performance tests and punitive measures for schools that struggled they often did not realize it would take extra spending on schools to allow students to meet those goals, Mr. Augenblick said.
"The state says, 'We're going to set standards for what kids need to be able to do and test to meet those standards,'" he said. "What is left out is how much it might cost to accomplish this."
That led to lawsuits, often filed by school districts or parent groups, to force states to give schools money to meet the new goals. States such as Wyoming and Ohio, the two other states to offer adequate funding after studying the issue, did so only after court cases.
Maryland officials were worried that if they conducted a study but then did nothing, the report calling for more funding would be a prime piece of evidence for plaintiffs to take into court. Lawmakers also wanted to avoid the acrimony of a lawsuit, said state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, Baltimore Democrat, the driving force behind the legislation.
"We are pretty proud of the fact we did this instead of being forced to by the courts," she said. "Think of that money that could be spent on kids instead of legal fees."
Mrs. Hoffman was part of a state-sponsored commission that studied school funding for two years, using two different models to come up with a base-line figure for adequate funding.
The plan, which would add $139 million in the next fiscal year, quickly met opposition in the spring in Annapolis. Gov. Parris N. Glendening didn't include the increased spending in his budget, and lawmakers weren't eager to raise taxes.

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