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Despite Bush’s rhetoric, states and counties foot most of education funding

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on January 27, 2001:

Senator Dyson In his first days in office, President Bush showed some keen political acumen by making education his top priority. His “No child left behind” education proposal was ambitious in scope and drew a lot of praise from Democrats and Republicans alike, including myself.

That President Bush would put education first on his legislative agenda is not a surprise. It was one of the key issues discussed by candidates Bush and Al Gore during the presidential campaign.

I am pleased that the president is making education a top priority. However, it’s important to note that despite his effective public relations campaign promoting education -- listed as one of the top priorities among a vast majority of Americans -- the federal government actually provides a small percentage of money towards education. Instead, it is left up to the states and local governments to fund education.

In Maryland for instance, we receive only 5.2 percent of federal funding. The state doles out 38.6 and the county governments contribute 56.2 percent. So, while President Bush appears to be giving the impression that he is setting the education agenda, it is important to note that despite his rhetoric, it is the state and local governments that will ultimately have the most say when it comes to education initiatives and spending.

It is also important to note that, despite the occasional complaints here and there from some disgruntled taxpayers, Maryland’s school system is one of the best in the nation. It also meets virtually all of the goals President Bush set forth in his “No Child Left Behind” education proposal. For instance, the president calls for required annual testing of students in every grade from 3-8. Maryland does just that with the exception of testing seventh grade students.

If President Bush were to seek a blueprint model for states to follow regarding education, he needs look no further than Maryland.

President Bush’s proposal also demands that states that consistently fail to raise standards would lose a portion of the administrative funds provided to state departments of education. Maryland has never lowered its standards that were originally set in 1993.

According to “Education Week” magazine, one of the most highly respected trade publications in the national education community, Maryland schools received the highest rating in the nation for standards and accountability in 2001 (a 98 percent rating). That’s four percentage points higher than New York, the second highest rated state.

I am privileged to sit on the Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee that hears most of the education bills that are introduced in the General Assembly. Sitting on this committee affords me the unique opportunity to acquire first-hand knowledge of virtually all of the problems, accomplishments and proposed initiatives to improve our already proud school system.

The governor often jokes with me about being a gadfly to him when it comes to my commitment to better education at every level. I take that as a supreme compliment. Education has always been one of my highest priorities since I was first elected to office in 1974. A better-educated community is less apt to commit crime, spread hateful vitriol and remain stuck in low-paid, dead end jobs. A better-educated community means a stronger economy and a more diverse community to live in.

I am not suggesting Maryland’s schools are perfect, but I am saying that we’ re doing a good job. The president’s support of education is heartening, but his proposal insinuates that the system is more broken than it is. I’m here to say that Maryland’s education system is healthier than most.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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