ANNAPOLIS — A throng of educators, parents, students and advocates marched Monday to Maryland’s state capital, demanding lawmakers fund school construction, salary increases for teachers and various educational programs.
A sea of red washed over downtown Annapolis, as thousands adorned in matching T-shirts filled the rally’s stage area near Calvert and Bladen streets. Demonstrators held signs reading “Students deserve better” and “Our kids can’t wait for the schools they deserve,” while state and county officials, students, parents and education advocates gave speeches and led the crowd in chanting, “It’s time.”
“It’s a lot of things they need in the schools that’s not there,” said Merita Herring of Springdale, who stood among the crowd on Calvert Street. “There [are] dinosaur computers. Need more books. Schools are dilapidated. If there’s been more money toward [education], I don’t see it.”
Herring’s son, Demetrious, 16, a 10th-grader at Bowie High School and member of the school marching band, said the band could also use upgraded equipment.
“We could get stuff for arts and tech, too,” Demetrious said.
Fittingly, Prince George’s County Public Schools dismissed two hours early Monday so students and parents could participate in the event.
The House Appropriations Committee agreed Friday to add another $320 million to the budget toward education, based on recommendations from the ongoing Kirwan Commission report scheduled for completion in the fall.
However, educators say another $725 million must be allocated for next year in Gov. Larry Hogan’s $46 billion budget.
“I think what we’ve seen through the bills, especially the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, as a recognition and a commitment at least right now by the legislature to see that our schools get funded,” Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, said about an hour before the rally. “We’re looking for the $750 million for next year and that’s why we’re rallying and marching. There’s an acknowledgment that our schools are underfunded. We need the governor to come on board as well.”
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh urged the crowd to push state lawmakers and the governor to invest more money into education.
“It is about the people’s wishes,” Pugh said. “We must do the people’s work. We’re not asking for anything that doesn’t belong to us. We pay taxes. We want our funds to go to our schools.”
On Thursday, March 7, the ACLU of Maryland and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a motion in Baltimore City Court claiming the state has underfunded schools in the city.
At Monday’s rally, Prince George’s County school board chairman Alvin Thornton, one of the main speakers, said beforehand that new lawmakers in the General Assembly understand the history from when he and others sought to bridge education inequities more than 20 years ago.
Thornton expressed optimism that the governor will act accordingly.
“I know the governor is going to respond from the people here today and from those legislators to fully fund” the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations, he said.
Meanwhile, Hogan’s office touted that education spending increased every year during his term, including state aid going from roughly $7,200 per student in fiscal 2015 to $7,760 in fiscal 2020.
“Gov. Hogan agrees wholeheartedly that Maryland teachers and students deserve well-funded schools,” said Hogan spokeswoman Shareese Churchill. ‘The governor will continue to advocate for innovate educational strategies and greater accountability in our schools to ensure funding goes where it belongs – in the classroom with teachers and students.”