Foot dragging may have led to failing schools, as Andy Smarick wrote in his Aug. 7 Close to Home piece, "Failing Schools, Dragging Feet," but the feet that have been dragging are not the ones to which he pointed. Missing from his piece were facts key to understanding why some Maryland schools are failing.

According to state-sponsored studies and binding court decisions from a long-running case involving Baltimore City, Maryland has chronically underfunded education, violating students' rights to an adequate education as guaranteed by the state constitution.

Baltimore City students, for example, still do not receive the full amount of state aid that a judge held was needed in 2000 and that Maryland's Thornton Commission determined was needed in 2002. That funding will not be fully realized until 2008.

Moreover, the governor has failed to fund crucial portions of the Thornton Commission's formula, such as the geographic cost of education index, which recognizes the additional expense involved in educating students in areas such as Prince George's County and Baltimore City.

Change is needed in public schools, as well as innovation, achievement and good management. But the debate about how to ensure that public school students get the education they deserve should not ignore the fact that public schools also need adequate and equitable resources so that students throughout Maryland can get the "thorough and adequate education" that the state constitution guarantees.



The writer is the attorney for the plaintiffs in Bradford v. Maryland State Board of Education.