Baltimore City public schools are planning to use a massive infusion of state funds next year to hire more staff, expand arts and sports programming and supplant some federal pandemic relief grants.
The board of city school commissioners on Tuesday approved a $1.62 billion budget for the 2022-23 academic year, which includes a staggering 16% spending increase over last year using new money tied to the landmark education reform called the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. If ratified, the school system that serves about 77,000 children will receive an additional $180 million for operating expenses and $50 million in restricted grants next year.
Commissioners made no significant changes to the administration’s proposed budget before voting 6-1 to send it to Baltimore City Council for ratification. Commissioner Durryle Brooks voted against the measure, citing that the budget should invest more in mental health supports for students.
Administrators say most of the money is going directly to schools who may use it to reduce class sizes, hire more staff and increase programming options for students. Schools with large enrollments and higher concentrations of poverty stand to receive the largest sums of money climbing into the millions.
For example, schools like Digital Harbor High and Patterson High, as well as Pimlico Elementary/Middle and The Belair-Edison School, a public charter elementary, each stand to receive $4 million in new money next year. One elementary school — public charter KIPP Harmony Academy — stands to receive an extra $6 million.
City school leaders are giving schools guidance to prioritize extended learning programs, tutoring, improve school climate and culture, arts and enrichment, athletics and mental health supports.
The upcoming academic year presented an unusual challenge for system leaders, who had to factor in shifting revenue sources including the state’s Blueprint plan and federal COVID relief dollars. And spending priorities were also designed with equity, the Blueprint reforms and pandemic recovery in mind.
“This has been a doozy of a year in preparing the FY23 budget,” said chief finance officer Chris Doherty to commissioners ahead of their vote.
The priorities were also based on part on input from stakeholders and a survey distributed to families, which generated 6,000 responses, according to system CEO Sonja Santelises.
“We heard you,” Santelises said in a statement. “We are gratified that the aspirations for your children mirror what City Schools strives to achieve: more — and more diverse — opportunities that reflect the uniqueness and individuality of every student, and gives them the support they need to succeed based on who they are and how they learn.”
Baltimore City Council has scheduled a hearing for the budget on June 2.