News and Commentary

Maryland Spent $93 Million Educating Kids Who Weren’t In School
Big empty classroom at modern school
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Maryland has spent nearly $93 million to educate children who had not been attending classes.

Project Baltimore — the investigative journalism arm of FOX45 Baltimore — discovered that thousands of students had been marked “whereabouts unknown” by their schools. The outlet identified several “ghost students” whose name appeared on rosters even after they had stopped pursuing public education — which “can boost the amount of money a school receives.”

In 2019, there were 6,126 such students. In the same year, Maryland schools received an average of $15,148 per student — meaning that up to $92,796,648 in education dollars could not be found.

“The fact that we’re funding students whose whereabouts are unknown and not a small number, thousands, and it adds up to tens of millions of dollars, that’s something that needs to be looked at,” commented Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who is running for governor as a Democrat. He suggested tying funds to attendance, which would prompt schools to keep students in class.

“What we’re doing now is just tragic, because we’re committing the state in a direction where we know the kids that are graduating don’t have the skill, the knowledge, or the self-confidence to independently take advantage of the free enterprise system,” Franchot added.

In July, another Project Baltimore investigation showed that four in ten Baltimore public high school students earned a 1.0 GPA during the last school year:

Project Baltimore obtained a chart assembled by Baltimore City Schools. The chart shows the average GPA for every high school grade in the city — freshman through senior. In the first three quarters of this past school year, according to the chart, 41% of all Baltimore City high school students, earned below a 1.0 grade point average. In other words, nearly half of the 20,500 public high school students in Baltimore earned less than a D average.

On the other end of the chart, 21 percent of city high school students earned a GPA of 3.0 or better; a B average. That’s about half as many who earned below a D. We can also see the district lost 706 high school students during the first three quarters of the year.

In response to COVID-19, public school districts across the United States introduced various forms of virtual learning. In many school systems — particularly urban districts controlled by teachers’ unions — the impact of online instruction has been devastating. In this context, many parents across the United States are calling for policies that facilitate a wider range of educational options for their children.

For instance, state lawmakers in South Carolina introduced a piece of legislation that would offer tax credits as high as $1,000 to parents who homeschool their children. Defining “home school” as “a home, residence, or location where a parent or legal guardian teaches one or more children,” the bill reads:

Beginning with the 2022-2023 School Year, a parent or legal guardian who teaches one or more qualifying students at home … may claim a credit against his taxable income equal to the total cost of any home school association and curriculum fees or one thousand dollars, whichever is less, for each qualifying child attending a home school. The credit allowed by this subsection may be claimed fully for the tax year in which the fees were paid provided the qualifying student completes the school term for that school year.

The bill is sponsored by 21 Republicans; it currently has no Democratic support.

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