WASHINGTON – Marylanders spend less of their income on public education than most other Americans, according to a Census Bureau report released today.
For every $100 of Marylanders’ combined personal income in 1994, $3.97 went to public elementary and secondary schools, according to the census report.
That’s nearly 9 percent less than the national average of $4.35 for every $100 in personal income. Only 11 other states spent less. The top state, Alaska, spent $7.05 on public education.
Maryland State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick said the report was “alarming” and called for increased funding at the state level.
A teacher’s union spokesman agreed.
“We’re not spending according to wealth,” said Maryland State Teachers Association spokesman Roger Kuhn. “We should be spending much more if we are to give kids a decent opportunity to learn in the state. We have a lot; we ought to give a lot, especially if we want to achieve world-class standards.”
Maryland spent no greater portion of its personal income on public education in 1994 than it did in 1993 and even less than it did in 1992. For the 1991-92 school year, the state spent $4.03 of every $100 of personal income on public education.
When looking at statistics another way, Maryland seems more generous. The state spent $6,100 for each of the state’s 772,638 public school students in 1994. Only nine states and the District of Columbia spent more.
According to separate data from the Maryland Department of Education, per-student spending in the state jumped to $6,446 in 1996.
Still, Kuhn said, Maryland’s public schools suffer from large class sizes, shortages of textbooks and buildings in need of repair. “In many places in the state, things are tough,” he said
The District of Columbia, regularly singled out by members of Congress as an example of failing public schools, spent more per pupil than any state in 1994 at $9,187. Utah was at the bottom, spending only $3,280 per pupil. The country as a whole spent $5,363 for each of the 43.5 million Americans who attended public school in 1994.
But Grasmick warned of the pitfalls in interstate comparisons.
“We have children with more complex needs here,” the superintendent said. “High concentrations of poverty are very much evident here. If you were to challenge (states that spend less on education) on what is their non-English speaking population compared to Montgomery County, where hundreds of languages are spoken, there’s no comparison.”
Of the 11 Maryland school districts with at least 15,000 pupils in 1994, Montgomery County spent the most per student, $7,505. Harford County spent the least at $5,404.