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Civil rights groups want Baltimore school funding lawsuit revisited

The ACLU and NAACP argue that the state of Maryland is not living up to a court agreement to provide more funding to Baltimore city schools.

Two civil rights organizations want a judge in Maryland to reopen a landmark case to force the state to provide hundreds of millions more dollars for the city of Baltimore's school system.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the ACLU of Maryland and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund argue that the state is not living up to its obligation — spelled out in a consent decree two decades ago — to provide enough funding for city schools.

They say the state should be spending $200 million to $300 million more each year to rebuild deteriorating facilities and provide a better learning environment. I

After rulings in the 1994 Bradford v. of Maryland State Board of Education case, the state and city entered into a consent decree. It provided more funding for the city schools and revamped the governance of the school system.

The case helped prompt a 2002 law that has provided billions of state dollars to schools across Maryland under what is now known as the “Thornton formula.”

The civil rights groups argue that since 2008, Maryland stopped adjusting the formula for inflation and allowed funding for Baltimore to fall far below the level required to provide an adequate education.

The actions of the two organizations come at a time when Maryland’s Kirwan Commission has recommended the state and local governments provide an additional $3.8 billion annually to schools by 2030.

This week, General Assembly leaders introduced a bill that would provide an additional $1 billion to public schools statewide over the next two years.

A city schools spokeswoman, Anne Fullerton, says the district supports the groups' legal action.

"Baltimore's children have already waited too long for the education funding they deserve and that is promised to them and to all children in Maryland by state law," Fullerton says. 

In the Bradford case, the judge found that the state violated the constitution by failing to provide a “thorough and efficient” public school education to the city’s children.

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