When you go to the polls to vote on November 6, please vote Yes on Question 1, a ballot referendum to support Maryland’s public schools. Question 1 is a constitutional amendment to direct casino gambling revenues, by law, to be used to increase the state’s education budget. This would result in over $500M in additional funding statewide annually.
When I ask people what they know about Question 1, I usually get one of two responses. The first is that they are completely unaware of the ballot question. The second is that they thought we had already answered this question several years ago. It turns out there is a very good reason people would think that.
The state voted to approve casino gaming a decade ago. That legislation included a provision to direct some of the revenues to an education “Lockbox.” The intent was clear – to increase education funding. The problem is that the original legislation didn’t specify that the funding was to supplement the state’s existing funding. Instead of adding much needed funding for Maryland’s schools, the casino revenues replaced other funding. Schools were no better off than before. We were duped.
This shell game has resulted in a loss to education funding of more than $1B over the last decade. It has increased pressure on local governments to fill in the gaps, and it has caused school boards across the state to make difficult cuts. We’ve seen this exact situation played out right here in Kent County. We struggle as a community to fund our schools adequately against rising costs and flat revenue. Our board of education has had to make difficult cuts and faces still more. The grass is not greener in neighboring counties as Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties faced cuts as well in the last budget season.
According to the Maryland Promise Committee, Kent County Public Schools are underfunded by a whopping $4.5M. This number represents a 15% increase over current funding from local, state and federal levels. A vote in favor of Question 1 would phase in over $900,000 from the state annually over and above current funding. While it doesn’t fill the entire gap in funding, it would make a huge difference in our ability to maintain and improve on the quality of education in Kent County.
And, as was pointed out earlier, this is what we thought we were getting when Maryland voted to allow casino gaming in the first place. The education lockbox that was created a decade ago should be used as it was intended – to increase funding to Maryland’s schools. The local impact would be a significant increase to KCPS funding without raising local taxes.
On November 6, we have a chance to fix this once and for all. Vote Yes on Question 1 to Fix the Fund.