How much money is enough money for city schools?

How much money is enough money for city schools? (WBFF)

BALTIMORE (WBFF) -- What does it cost to educate a child in Baltimore City? Right now, that number is $16,000 a year, the fourth highest in the country, but some still say it’s not enough.

So, how much money is enough money?

“You always hear in Annapolis that we need to fully fund education, says Chris Summers, founder of the Maryland Public Policy Institute. “What is that number?”

Taxpayers were told that answer came in 2002 with the Thornton Funding Plan -- the formula that determines how much money each school district gets from the state. But now, 15 years later, the so-called silver bullet has become a political battleground.

"The problem is the state is not providing the amount of money that it needs to be providing,” says Baltimore City Councilman Bill Henry.

The Thornton Plan works like this: The amount of money each school district gets is based on a few factors, including student enrollment. The more students, the more money.

It’s also based on a district’s wealth, like property values and income levels. So, districts with less wealth, and therefore less money for education, get more aid from the state.

Baltimore City is impacted by both because student enrollment has dropped by about two thousand kids in the last four years. At the same time, Project Baltimore found that the city’s total wealth has increased $1.5 billion from last year.

"It’s wealth on paper. And we know, which has been a large topic of discussion both inside the city and out, that wealth on paper does not match the match the wealth of the citizens," says City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises.

Critics also point to another factor that dates back a decade, when Martin O’Malley was running for governor.

“What all of our school systems need is a partner in the governor’s office who is committed to fully funding Thornton,” O’Malley said in 2006 before he was elected governor. But that’s not what he did after he won. In 2009, following the recession, the state froze inflation increases for four years. Santelises says that move was devastating for City Schools.

"If we had just kept pace with inflation, we’d be sitting here with an additional $290 million,” Santelises says. “There is a trajectory of funding from the state that doesn't match the commitment the state made through the Thornton funding."

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