Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, left, addresses the Maryland House of Delegates as House Speaker Michael Busch, center, and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford stand nearby on Jan. 16. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

When challenged on money for schools, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is quick to retort that he’s funding education at record levels.

With $6.3 billion, his 2017 budget proposal indeed contains the most money ever set aside for education. Just like in 2016. And 2015. And so on.

State education spending is always on the rise, and nearly every budget proposed by three different Maryland governors since 2004 has boasted some sort of record amount being dedicated to education. It’s the natural byproduct of state funding formulas adopted early this century that take into account inflation and increasing enrollment, as well as education ranking high among voter priorities.

In other words, record education spending has become a given.  The real budget debate lies in whether education spending is increasing enough.

Funding for school operations, including teacher salaries, supplies and administrations, comes from federal, state and local funding sources. When governors talk about education spending, they usually refer to the money under their control in the state general and special funds.

This state funding has doubled from 3.1 billion in 2002 to 6.16 billion this fiscal year. Now, for the second year in a row, Hogan is proposing a 2 percent increase in education funding, the same growth rate as during the last two years of his Democratic predecessor Martin O’Malley’s administration.

That doesn’t sound as nice as “record education spending” — but Hogan isn’t the first to make the impressive-sounding claim.


Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) boasted of three consecutive unprecedented increases in education spending in his last three budgets. After O’Malley defeated him in 2006, the Democrat quickly proclaimed a new record for spending on schools in the fiscal 2008 budget. That year was the final year of phasing in a new funding formula, and the government pumped a never-before-seen additional $689 million into education.

Then the recession blew holes in government budgets across the country. And with record education increases no longer sustainable, O’Malley — and Hogan after him — boasted of record spending levels instead.

Matt Clark, Hogan’s director of communications, says it’s an important point to make, especially because Democratic lawmakers and teachers unions accuse the administration of cutting funding for education if it doesn’t fully fund certain education-related programs.

“Everyone in these debates uses facts that support their point of view,” said Clark. “There’s a whole lot of ways of splitting this apple.”