Since 1994, the ACLU has been a champion of students’ rights to an adequate education in Baltimore City. Its Education Reform project has been instrumental in advocating for increased statewide funding for Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) through the Bridge for Excellence legislation and for continued maintenance of that effort.
Beginning with its critical advocacy in the General Assembly’s approval of the 2002 Thornton Bill, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been successful in leveraging significant additional state education funding in Maryland. Since the ACLU’s 1997 lawsuit creating the city-state partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools), its efforts have resulted in a cumulative increase of more than $2.5 billion in operating funding to City Schools alone. The 2002 Thornton/Bridge to Excellence Act funding translates to $260 million in additional funds each year for Baltimore City. As Maryland considers the upcoming reauthorization of the Thornton Bill, the ACLU is an active participant at the table.
In 2008, the Abell Foundation funded the ACLU’s study of city school facilities. That report, “Buildings for Academic Excellence,” and accompanying efforts prompted the City of Baltimore and the school system to develop and successfully advocate for a $1 billion 10-year plan to build or renovate up to 35 Baltimore City public school facilities. The ACLU will work to ensure that the 21st Century Buildings Program is well implemented, transparent, and results in new school facilities that can initiate education reform.
In addition, the ACLU has also developed the strategy for City Schools to successfully capture an additional $45 million in additional state funds for poor children through Free and Reduced meal funding. The ACLU has continued to work with the State of Maryland and City Schools to secure more capital funding for school facilities over the past five years – a record amount for the system. Since 2007, it also has advocated for the expansion of pre-K classes in Baltimore City and statewide, resulting in nearly 5,000 four-year-olds served annually with a full-day program (a 66 percent increase in seats).
In its unique position as legal representative of the children, the ACLU also provides parents and communities who deserve a voice in school reform the opportunity to speak.