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Maryland: Court Allows Lawsuit to Proceed for Baltimore City Funding

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On January 21, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Audrey Carrion paved the way for Maryland’s long-running school funding litigation, Bradford v. Maryland, to proceed. Judge Carrion denied the State of Maryland’s motion to dismiss and ordered the case be prepared for a trial on the merits.

The Bradford case was first filed in 1994 by Baltimore City public school parents, alleging that the State’s underfunding of City schools violated students’ constitutional right to an adequate education. After granting partial summary judgment in favor of the parents in 1996, the parties entered into a consent decree requiring increased funding. Despite enactment of a new school funding formula in 2002, the State consistently failed to fully fund it.

In recent reports on the school funding system, the State itself has found the Baltimore City schools remain severely underfunded. The funding shortfalls have, in turn, resulted in glaring deficits in essential resources in Baltimore schools, which serve a very high percentage of low-income, at-risk students. Schools are lacking in teachers, guidance counselors, librarians and basic curricular offerings. Many buildings are in disrepair. Student outcomes are inadequate, graduation rates are low, and dropout rates are double the state average.

Faced with consistent State failure to remedy these intolerable conditions, the Bradford parents petitioned to reopen the case in March 2019. The plaintiffs are represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the ACLU of Maryland, and the firm Baker Hostetler.

The State moved to dismiss the case, claiming the petition was untimely, the 2002 consent decree was terminated, and the case presents a purely political question not suitable for judicial review.

In denying the State’s motion, Judge Carrion ruled that the Bradford court intended to retain jurisdiction until the State fully complied with the consent decree, and the consent decree remains viable. The Court also rejected the State’s argument that the case involved a purely political question, ruling that Maryland courts retain an inherent authority to review State compliance with the constitutional guarantee of education.

Judge Carrion’s ruling paves the way for the vindication of the constitutional rights of children in the Baltimore City Schools after a nearly two-decade struggle to secure adequate resources for their public schools.

Wendy Lecker is a Senior Attorney at Education Law Center

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel

Policy and Outreach Director

Education Law Center

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