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Fixing the Casino Money Bait and Switch

Democratic leadership in Annapolis offer multiple years of continued status quo, Mary Washington offers justice now.

When state voters went to the polls in 2008 to vote on slot machines, Question 2 was only approved because it was for the primary purpose of providing funds to public schools. Pro-gambling ads in 2012 featuring Stephanie Rawlings Blake and Jonathan Ogden talked about pumping millions of dollars into our schools. The pro-gambling groups outspent their opponents 7-1, spending over seven million dollars in advertisements.

What ultimately emerged was not what people thought they had approved. The specific Education Trust Fund language passed created a bait and switch, “(c) Money in the Education Trust Fund shall be used to: (1) provide funding for public elementary and secondary education, through continuation of the funding and formulas established under the programs commonly known as the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act.”

What this means is that Casinos don’t add a single cent to education that the funding formula didn’t already mandate! The 100s of millions of dollars added to the Education Trust Fund were simply used to REPLACE general fund revenue that used to support the Thornton Formula.

Before casinos opened in 2011, Maryland spent 21 percent of its $31 billion general fund revenue on public schools. In 2017, with revenues at $42 billion, the state spends just 18 percent of its general fund on public schools. The casino money allowed general funds to be spent elsewhere.

The solution to this bait and switch is rather simple, alter the language of the Education Trust Fund this legislative session. Use gambling money put into the Education Trust Fund to do what people were sold it was going to do, create additional resources for schools. This means adding money on top of what the current funding formula already mandates, rather than simply replacing General Fund revenue that used to go to education.

BMORE has teamed up with Delegate Mary Washington to propose HB557 accomplishing this goal. After going public with her intentions, Maggie McIntosh and Joan Carter Conway proposed their own solution to the casino bait and switch, a constitutional amendment, which would be voted on directly by MD citizens. We strongly favor Mary’s approach, and here’s why.

  • HB557 is filed for THIS legislative session, meaning it would alter the law ASAP. McIntosh’s is a ballot initiative, meaning it won’t even be voted on until November, and certainly not implemented any time soon. Additionally, Washington’s timeline forces the governor’s hand BEFORE the election cycle instead of giving him a pass until after he’s re-elected.

  • McIntosh’s initiative asks for a multi-year phase in, as if Baltimore City students should continue waiting in under-resourced classrooms and buildings. We know that justice delayed is no justice at all, which is why Washington’s bill asks for Education Trust Fund resources to be put in addition to the formula immediately.

  • Finally, Washington’s bill contains maintenance of effort language to ensure accountability so that future political tricks like the one that landed us here in the first place won’t be repeated.

For these reasons, the Baltimore Movement Of Rank and file Educators see a clear choice for fixing the casino money bait and switch. We stand with Delegate Mary Washington.

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