Understanding The $30 Million In Increases In The HCPSS Budget in 2020

I want to start this post with the following…the budget right now for Howard County Public Schools in 2020 is a proposal…and not finalized yet. It is expected to be finalized by the end of this month (I believe). I expect all of these numbers to change before everything is said and done…so this entire post is just to tell you where things are right now as I know them.

I also want to say that I have three different sets of numbers…and none of them match up…I have numbers from the county, the state and the HCPSS…and I swear it is crazy that I can not get one of the three data sets to say the same thing. I am sure someone out there has the right data…for for a members of the public trying to figure it out…this is ridiculous.

The numbers being promoted and talked about on social media and on blogs is an additional $30 million in HCPSS funding in 2020…and that is kind of technically true. Here are some posts stating the $30 million number:

(Facebook post removed)

I wanted to share some charts in this post to help understand it.

If you look at all funding sources: County, State and Other…here are some numbers I got from my sources in Howard County Government:

Now my chart shows the data with and without the $11.1 million in one time funding in 2019. If you ignore the one time funding in 2019…the funding for HCPSS looks outstanding compared to the numbers from 2015 to today…with the one time funding in 2019…the numbers look good on the chart.

There is an additional $30 million in new funding for HCPSS….so that statement is true. That statement is making the rounds on social media from members of the community and elected officials (see above). What they do not say is where that money is coming from in 2020 (most of it is coming from the state).

What is NOT true is that our County Executive has added an additional $30 million in new funding (another statement that is being shared on social media). I am sure he would if he could…but that did not happen in 2020 and you should not be lied to from members of our community.

Here is the Howard County funding part of that budget:

If you ignore the one time funding…the 2020 funding in the budget looks fine…or even good…but if you add in the one time funding in 2020…the funding does not look so great if you compare it to the other funding amounts from 2015 to today on a year by year funding amount from County Government to the school system.

The county has added just over $5 million or $16 million depending on how you look at this budget.

I feel I know the County Executive well enough to know this…if he had the money…he would send it the way of the school system…but this is a difficult budget year and the money is just not there to give the school system everything they want.

I will continue to keep an eye on this topic…and I am on the Sam Seaborn (West Wing) side when it comes to schools:

“Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense.”

I am disappointed in the actions and comments of some in our community…especially those sending messages home with kids from the schools…or those possibly looking to run for office not telling the entire truth.

The school system in Howard County is important…it is critical we keep it the best school system in the state and one of the best in the country…but the rhetoric that is used right now is not great…and the unwarranted attacks on those serving this county are wrong…when they have done nothing wrong at this point.

I have some additional data that will be published in future posts…but I figure this is enough for this morning. Stay tuned for more information.

I hope you all have a wonderful week.

Scott E

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  1. Even $30 million is a drop in the bucket. I am sure just catching up on deferred maintenance alone could easily eat this up. Or the increased cost of healthcare plans, raises for employees, increased cost of materials and heating and cooling, not to mention paying for the 1000 students added every year. So I personally am not impressed anyway in a school system that already raised class sizes recently and cut programs like elementary level Spanish. Either stop allowing more building, Calvin Ball, or give HCPSS enough money to deal with the fallout of so many added students so rapidly!!


  2. We have the most segregated schools in the state and the country rating is based on standardized testing….meaning we have great test prep but not much in the way of an actual education. Sorry, but the whole “HoCo schools are great” is just a smoke and mirrors scam to get people to locate to this area. Building the tax base at the expense of children’s actual education is deplorable. There is plenty of money if the county really wants to support the education of it’s children….start cutting the fat at the top.


  3. Scott,

    This is correct, but I think you’ve missed the larger point. In talking about a funding “increase” you need to look at what it would cost to keep doing what is being done now as a baseline. That means that a substantial real funding increase would have been required just to pay for the increase in enrollment and the new union contracts planned for next year (which have 4% pay raises). The amount of funding being provided is less than that baseline amount, so in effect HCPSS is getting a funding cut compared to its current level. That means that something that less of something will need to be provided, whether it’s larger class sizes, deferred building maintenance, elimination of some programs (or most likely some of each). Unlike the Federal Government, HCPSS can’t print or borrow money, so the numbers have to add up somehow. If people don’t like it, they can ask Calvin Ball to propose a tax increase (his numbers have to add up, too). But it’s not reasonable to beat up on the school board members when they have no control at all regarding how much money HCPSS has to spend each year.


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