WASHINGTON – Maryland spent $8,077 for each public school student in 2001, 13th-highest in the nation, but the state ranked 38th in the amount of money it spends on education relative to its wealth, according to new study by the Census Bureau.
The Census report said Maryland, which has the fourth-highest per capita personal income in the nation, spent $38.74 for every $1,000 of personal income, the study found.
Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia all had lower personal income than Maryland, but all spent more on schools per $1,000 of personal income, the report said. Residents of Delaware, for example, spent $8,603 per pupil in 2001 or $40.96 per $1,000 of personal income.
“Eight thousand sounds good, but compared to the wealth of the state we could be doing a lot more,” said Carl W. Smith, president for the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.
“It’s not that we don’t have the wealth,” Smith said. “We have the wealth, the resources. We lack the political will to have the best schools.”
But education reformers said more money is not the answer, that there are other types of reforms that can improve schools.
“If Maryland is in fact ranked 13th in nation why are there so many failing schools in Maryland?” asked Anna Varghese, a spokeswoman for the Center for Education Reform.
Rather than overspend on school administration, Varghese said, Maryland should let the money follow the child as it supposed to.
“That is what charter schools do,” Varghese said.
Reforms like charter schools open school systems up and improve schools in the long run, Varghese said. Simply funneling more money to districts will not do the trick.
Smith disagreed. He said that educators need to look to systemic solutions to help poor students succeed. And that, he said, will take more spending.
The report said Maryland falls in the middle of its neighbors on spending per pupil. It trails Delaware, which spent $8,603 per pupil, and Pennsylvania, which spent $8,191. But Maryland spent more than West Virginia’s $7,450 and Virginia’s $7,278.
But of those states, only Virginia spent less than Maryland per $1,000 of personal income, according to the Census report. While Maryland spent $38.74 per $1,000 of personal income, West Virginia spent $54.31; Pennsylvania spent $41.05; Delaware spent $40.96; and Virginia spent $37.70.
“It is disturbing that we are at 38th place,” in school spending relative to wealth, said Maryland State Teachers Association President Pat Foerster. “We agree totally that Maryland has the ability to fund schools at a high level.”
She said underfunding for some Maryland school districts has been an ongoing problem.
“The children don’t have any more years to wait. Each year we have not dealt with their needs is a year they have lost,” Foerster said.