by Genevieve Demos Kelley
Much has been made of Governor Hogan’s refusal to release $68 million of the Geographic Cost of Education (GCEI) funds. Prince George’s County alone stands to lose more than $20 million in anticipated funding for Fiscal Year 2016. What excatly are GCEI funds, and what does Hogan’s move mean for Maryland schools?
What is the Geographic Cost of Education Index?
The Geographic Cost of Education Index is a supplemental funding program designed to appropriate extra funds to school districts in Maryland with a high cost of educating students. Of Maryland’s 24 local school districts, thirteen have been designated — to varying degrees — as “high cost” school districts and receive GCEI funds. Those thirteen districts serve approximately 80% of Maryland’s public school students. (Read more here.)
Each school district receiving GCEI funds is assigned a predetermined adjustment factor which is multiplied by the per pupil foundation (base) funding amount for that school district, resulting in increased state aid. Prince George’s County’s adjustment is the highest in the state at 0.048 (followed by Baltimore City and Montgomery County), translating into a 4.8% increase in state funding over the foundation amount. (Find the GCEI adjustment, as of 2008, for all school districts in Maryland here.1)
So, is GCEI just a cost-of-living adjustment for school districts with higher home prices and incomes?
No. It’s much more complicated than that. The GCEI’s personnel cost index, which accounts for the bulk of the GCEI adjustment,2 is formulated to reflect the wages needed to attract teachers and other personnel for each district. The cost of attracting personnel is estimated to be higher in school districts that, through factors beyond their control, are deemed to be less desirable. Cost-of-living is a large component here, but the personnel cost index also factors in quality of life and working conditions outside the control of the school district. In theory, for example, a school district with a high cost-of-living and poor working conditions would need to offer higher wages than a school district with a comparable cost-of-living and better working conditions. In other words, tougher school districts need to offer better salaries.