Question 1: Four Facts About the Casino Lock-Box Initiative

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by Llew Brown and David Duba

The 2018 mid-term elections will be held Tuesday, November 6th, 2018. In this election cycle, voters will make a number of choices that will impact public education in Maryland for years to come. Perhaps it’s poetic justice that the first amendment listed on the ballot is related to education funding, a key issue across the country in 2018. This past spring, teachers participated in large scale protests and went on strike in six separate states. These protests were inspired by wages being below the cost of living for school personnel and inadequate budgets for classroom supplies. They coincided with an incident here in Prince George’s County involving the inflation of pay for central office employees, and the early closure of schools throughout the county during the first week of classes due to an inability to adequately cool aging facilities. Given the array of issues facing public education, it’s reasonable to ask, “Where will money to fix public school issues come from, and how can we ensure adequate and equitable funding?” Read further to review a bit of history related to the use of casino funds, and the potential impact of question 1 on the future of public education funding in Maryland.

What is Question 1?

Question 1 on the ballot proposes a constitutional amendment that requires the governor to use casino revenue to supplement funding for prekindergarten through grade 12 in public schools, beyond the minimum levels prescribed by current funding formulas. Sometimes referred to as the “casino lockbox” amendment, passage of this ballot initiative could steer millions of dollars from casino revenues to fund public education.

Didn’t the law already require casino money to support education?

In 2008, voters decided to legalize gambling in the state of Maryland. Revenue from taxes on gambling was since added to the state budget each year. However, according to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, general tax revenue that was used to fund education prior to 2009 has been regularly diverted from education funding as casino tax revenue has increased. Money that used to be spent on education from the general tax revenue is being diverted to other projects like road construction and employee salaries. Put another way, gambling revenue has replaced education funding, not increased it. By voting yes on Question 1, money from casino revenue will be used to supplement funding for education, per an amendment to the Maryland constitution.

How much money is at stake? How can the money be used?

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Three Upcoming Opportunities to Advocate for School Funding

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by Llew Brown

In our personal life, we have lots of wants, but limited resources require us to make tough choices. In the end, the way we spend our time and money reveals our priorities.  If you want to shape the school system’s priorities for next year and beyond, follow these three tips and let your voice be heard:

#1: Testify at a School Board Hearing

The last of three Budget Public Hearings to be held by the school board this year is on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, 7:00 PM at Oxon Hill High School. If you register in advance to speak, you have three minutes to voice your concerns directly to the school board and CEO Kevin Maxwell. Find the proposed budget and timeline here:

http://www.pgcps.org/budget/index.aspx?id=200115

#2: Speak at one of County Executive Baker’s Budget Listening Sessions

The next opportunity is  February 8, 2017, at Prince George’s Community College. To view dates for additional sessions, and to register to speak for three minutes, go here:

https://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/2404/Budget-Listening-Sessions?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

The County Council is hosting a Budget Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, February 20th

https://pgccouncil.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=423

#3: Contact your State Legislator 

Several Maryland legislators are proposing changes intended to channel more casino revenues towards  public schools.  Here’s one article discussing the issue:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-mcintosh-amendment-20171222-story.html

Learn what legislative district you belong to here, then follow the link below to contact your legislator and share your opinion on this issue.

http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/07leg/html/gacopg.html

Don’t delay: the budget bill for the current legislative session is due to be decided by April, 2018.