If Mo’ Money Fails Maryland Schools, Why Will It Be Any Different in Virginia?

by James A. Bacon

Members of a Maryland education commission have painted a bleak picture of the state’s education system, reports the Washington Post. Students are failing, and teachers are fleeing. Without drastic reforms, the commission warns, Maryland’s economy will face dire consequences.

“The current system is not working,” says Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, D-Baltimore County. “Maryland students are struggling to compete among their peers internationally. Achievement gaps based on income race and disability aren’t closing. We’re losing good teachers to better-paying industries. And the majority of our high school graduates aren’t college- and career-ready.”

The proposed solution? The same as it is everywhere: Mo’ Money! Lawmakers’ proposed legislation would cost Marylanders nearly $4 billion a year in state and local revenue.

Why should Virginians care about Maryland’s travails? Because Virginia is heading where Maryland is now.

As in the Old Line State, the answer to every educational malady here in Virginia is Mo’ Money. Governor Ralph Northam proposes increasing K-12 spending by $1.2 billion in the next two-year budget in a package that includes steering tens of millions yearly to poor schools. That won’t get us to Maryland’s level of spending, but it will point us in that direction.

According to Education Week’s Quality Counts 2019 Grading the States, per pupil spending in Virginia averages $10,530. But Maryland spending averages $13,146 per student!

Got that? Maryland spends roughly 25% more per student than Virginia, yet “its students are failing and its teachers are fleeing.” The only answer that Maryland’s intellectually bankrupt educational establishment can come up with is to spend more money doing more of the same thing that’s not working. And that’s exactly what Virginia’s intellectually bankrupt educational establishment is proposes as well. What makes us even more stupid is that we want a Maryland-style spending level even though we can see it’s not working there!

In Maryland, teachers are miserable and fleeing the profession. In the 2016-17 school year according to National Education Association data, Maryland teachers were paid on average $68,357, 8th highest in the country. By comparison, Virginia teachers averaged $52,340, 28th highest.

Maybe the reason Maryland teachers are fleeing the profession is not because they are paid insufficiently but because the working conditions suck! Discipline is a disaster. Students are apathetic. Administrators won’t back them up. I would submit that paying Virginia teachers more like Maryland teachers will not solve the problem of Virginia teacher shortages either. Teachers here, as in Maryland, usually quit because the job sucks, and if the educational establishment can’t un-suck the schools, teachers will continue leaving no matter how much we pay them.

The problem with public schools isn’t the lack of money. It’s the relentless intrusion of progressive ideology. Progressive doctrines and practices are ruining the schools. Virginia schools are becoming more like Maryland schools in that regard, and that’s what we need to focus on. You can double K-12 spending per student, but if you’re doubling down on progressive ideology at the same time, public schools will get worse, not better.

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41 responses to “If Mo’ Money Fails Maryland Schools, Why Will It Be Any Different in Virginia?”

  1. djrippert Avatar

    Comparing Maryland and Virginia at the state-wide level is like comparing chalk and cheese. Maryland is America’s wealthiest state according to US News & World Report. Virginia is #9. Marylanders make 13% more than Virginians on average.


    That explains about 1/2 of the 25% difference in salaries between Virginia and Maryland teachers. The alternatives for higher paying jobs are better in Maryland.

    Also, the value of a dollar in Maryland (against the US average) is $.91 whereas Virginia is $.98. So, Maryland is 13% more prosperous than Virginia but only 7% more expensive.

    There is also the distribution of public school children by area. 20.2% of Marylanders live in the state’s 10 largest cities. In Virginia (after eliminating counties pretending to be cities like Virginia Beach while adding cities pretending to be counties like Arlington) we get 18.7%. More urban = more expensive = more likely to have high numbers of public school children.

    Finally, Marylanders have something that Virginians lack … a Republican governor. Gov Hogan has proven himself willing to veto Democratic spew spending bills. Northam? Not so much.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      I think you need to separate K-12 rank from Higher Education rank for this discussion. Florida, for example, is #1 for higher education rank but #27 for K-12 rank. In K-12, Virginia is ranked 8th while Maryland is rated #11.


  2. Virginia does have one of the best public school systems in the country…. now. My fear is that we’re wrecking it.

    1. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

      I teach in a nationally ranked high school. #611 out of 23,000. Not a chance I would send my kid to this school. I cannot assign or grade homework. I cannot collect or grade classwork. I can only give assessments. Students are permitted to retake those assessments as many times as they want. I know exactly how Marse Robert felt at Appomattox. We lost. Not coming back for at least a full generation. You cannot blame the kids. The adults are the ones who have lost their minds. I am ready to break the nose of every politician and bureaucrat that has hatched this nightmare.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        And it’s hard to get people’s attention. But the biggest culprit of all is elite higher education. And UVA leads the pack in Va..
        Elite higher education is deconstructing America, and have been for five decades.

        Meanwhile, American Morons sleep.

        1. fromthefuture Avatar

          Again with calling others morons. Sounds like someone who (or your kids) couldn’t hack UVA.

  3. Here’s newer data from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) (hat tip: Jim Weigand): http://jlarc.virginia.gov/va-compared-4.asp

    Virginia per-pupil spending 2016-17: $11,977
    Maryland per-pupil spending 2016-17: 15,874
    Differential: 32%
    Differential adjusted for cost-of-living difference (from DJ Rippert above): 22%

    Virginia average teacher salary 2017-18: $51,994
    Maryland average teacher salary 2017-18: $69,627
    Differential: 34%
    Differential adjusted for cost-of-living difference: 25%

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    We have the same problem in public education in the US that we have with Health care.

    In both cases, we spend far more money and get far less value.

    Our public schools are not “failing” in terms of not having an educated workforce and therefore economic disaster as a result. We produce a large number of educated kids but we have fewer of “proficient” as compared to other countries. In other words, more of them are better educated. We still produce a ton of graduates that go on to power our economy.

    Similarly, we spend a ton of money on health care, twice as much as other countries, yet we rank near last in life expectancy for developed countries.

    We are told in both cases, we are “not like” other countries and such comparisons are not valid. Other countries are more “homogenous” and we are culturally and income/wealth diverse, i.e. we have a lot of different ethnicities and big differences in income.

    If you want to see a real divide – look at California – the 7th largest economy in the world, 40% Hispanic and public school academic achievement not very good.

    look at California on this chart:


  5. Can you share the source that Maryland teachers are fleeing the profession? I am not questioning the accuracy just curious for the source.


    1. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

      I am only 49 years old. Retiring at the earliest possible moment. 115 days. 2 more report cards! This is like trying to win the battle of Pearl Harbor. It can’t be done.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Well, our Fathers won the battle of Pearl Harbor, just took them 33 months. Pearl Harbor was the spark they needed. When will the spark flare off the next revolution because surely now it is coming?

  6. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    We can throw out Virginia’s high rankings for public education. Polls in Virginia show the two Democratic primary leaders for president are tied at 22% each, Michael Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders. Likely those numbers are far far higher in Charlottesville.

    We should shut down public education in Virginia altogether. Go back exclusively to home and private schooling where safely and sanity reign.

  7. My source is the Washington Post article I linked to, and I presume that the WaPo is citing a report by Maryland’s Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.

  8. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Last year I had a long lunch with a 29 year old teacher in a Baltimore high school. He described a totally politicized and dysfunctional school system where all traditional teaching had come to a halt, overwhelmed by social justice rants and indoctrination. The teacher’s union indoctrinated the teachers who in turn indoctrinated the kids in grievance theology. Hate and intolerance prevailed.

    The teacher, who had arrived after serving in Barack Obama’s second presidential campaign, had given up teaching in public schools forever, he said. He had “filed his papers,” and would soon be gone forever.

    1. Yup. Progressive ideology is a highly corrosive force. No amount of money can offset its negative effects. No wonder Baltimore is ungovernable.

      1. fromthefuture Avatar

        The same can be said about conservative ideology.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    what BS!

    one of the best school systems in the country is in New Jersey which also happens to be one of the highest per pupil funding…

    so is that a “progressive” thing also?

    we’re wallowing in conservative BS here….

    If I can show you a state that spends MO MONEY AND also ends up with top tier academics – then what does that means – that MO MONEY “works”?

    1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
      Peter Galuszka

      What evidence for Maryland? Why is? New Jersey so strong? Typical provincialism

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        because the point is to run down public schools whenever there is an opportunity to do so – MO money and “progressive practices”. What’s more to hate? 😉

  10. “If I can show you a state that spends MO MONEY AND also ends up with top tier academics – then what does that means – that MO MONEY “works”?”

    No, it would mean that you need to take a class in remedial logic.

    I have argued that the amount of money spent per student is a secondary factor in determining educational outcomes. It is a factor, yes, but only one among many. I have NEVER argued that more money and superior academic performance are mutually exclusive, only that Mo’ Money is no guarantee of superior performance.

    One of the factors that significantly outweighs the amount of money spent per pupil is the degree to which progressive practices and values have permeated a school system.

    Your flailing efforts to contradict the obvious only reinforce my case.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      re: ” It is a factor, yes, but only one among many. ”

      yes and what are they besides “progressive practices” – and do you
      have anything at all to back up what you are saying other than pure speculation?

      what “progressive practices” ? And are such “practices” cited in those studies showing teachers leaving? Or is that your own “take”?

    2. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

      John Dewey’s traditional model of education from the turn of the last century is long gone. What a shame! He was right on the money about many things.

  11. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Fairfax County recently paid many of its teachers less than many other school systems. This was especially true with mid-career teachers. Yet, when one includes benefits, including the two pension plans that covered each teacher, total compensation for Fairfax County teachers was higher than all other nearby school systems. More of the public sector lies presented to people.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      More and more, our society is built higher and higher on nothing more that lies and deceits. Hence the certainty of collapse and revolution.

      The Age of the Billionaire, now fully upon us, will be the last act of what began with LBJ, the most deceitful and destructive president in modern US history, who jump-started this now accelerating free fall.

  12. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    The fine magazine First Things reviews a new book out on this topic, called:

    The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success by Ross Douthat

    Here is a taste of that review:

    “Douthat outlines four aspects of decadence: stagnation (technological and economic mediocrity), sterility (declining birth rates), sclerosis (institutional failure), and repetition (cultural exhaustion).

    Stagnation is the most evident. Look up from your phone, and compare our time to 1969. “Over the last two generations,” Douthat writes, “the only truly radical change has taken place in the devices we use for communication and entertainment, so that a single one of the nineteenth century’s great inventions [running water] still looms larger in our every­day existence than most of what we think of as technological breakthroughs nowadays.”

    Sterility is not immediately obvious outside of a few places like San Francisco. In public debates, low birth rates are treated as a matter of personal preference. If they mean anything more, it is as a drag on future economic performance—hence an argument for immigration. Douthat goes beyond economistic abstractions to point out that missing kids weaken a society’s connection to the future. …

    “Sclerosis” refers to our diseased institutions, especially the inability of our government to get anything done. Assessing the record of rule by experts, Douthat again emphasizes historical contingency rather than doctrinaire ideology:

    Time makes these problems worse, as popular programs become part of an informal social contract that makes them nearly impossible to reform; as the administrative state gets barnacled by interest groups that can buy off and bludgeon would-be reformers; and as the proliferation of regulations handcuffs administrators and deprives them of the room to respond to changing times.

    “Repetition” names the condition of our culture, endlessly remaking remakes of remakes. …

    Now the old family structure has been smashed, religion is in decline, patriotism is passé, and the cultural marketplace is fragmented. Because there is no longer a healthy dominant culture, would-be rebels have nothing to resist. So they playact the battles of a previous age.

    Every aspect of decadence feeds back into the others.” End quote.

    For more see:

  13. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    One of the biggest issues facing educators is the mental health of students. No kidding. It is a serious obstacle that I face everyday. I am not a shrink but I do feel like one. Society has to stop dumping social ills on the laps of teachers. The equity initiative is just another example of school teachers charged with an impossible mission that is doomed to fail and the school teacher will catch all the blame.

  14. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    Here is an interesting reform thought from the Hoover Institute. This was recently in the Washington Post. It asserts the notion of robbing current teacher pensions to increase the pay of future teachers (since nobody in their right mind would be one now). The future teacher would be lavishly paid but would not get a pension. Interesting thought. It is worthy of a Bacon’s Rebellion article all on its own.

  15. Jim Loving Avatar

    LarrytheG – I too was wondering what Jim was talking about so I searched it. LOTS of sites, books, documentaries out in conservative media land about this meme – “Progressive indoctrination in the schools,” this has been around at least since 2011.

    So, what is the plan you ask? Me too. As best one can tell, it seems to be: Use public money (from “Government” schools) to fund private, non-public schools, exit said public schools because they are teaching progressive values, or – reintroduce Christian education into the public schools.





    1. Jim, you don’t have to go to conservative blogs to see what I mean by the “progressive” approach to education. I’ve laid out my critique right here on Bacon’s Rebellion. Should you feel inclined to whittle away your time in such a fashion, you can consult our back blog posts on K-12 education here: https://www.baconsrebellion.com/category/education-k-12/

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        but what Jim is espousing here is not that different than found on most Conservative sites – that’s the point.

        Tear down the public schools, call them failures – then fund “vouchers” for non-public schools – with no accountability.

        1. “Tear down the public schools, call them failures – then fund “vouchers” for non-public schools – with no accountability.”

          Reckless and irresponsible allegations. Document them. This blog has a search feature. Go ahead and document your allegations. Put up or shut up.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            “Reckless and irresponsible allegations”?

            ” The only answer that Maryland’s intellectually bankrupt educational establishment can come up with is to spend more money doing more of the same thing that’s not working. And that’s exactly what Virginia’s intellectually bankrupt educational establishment is proposes as well. What makes us even more stupid is that we want a Maryland-style spending level even though we can see it’s not working there!”

            that’s a pretty tough commentary but it’s pretty much standard fare here in BR when it comes to public schools – in my view.

            It’s not a failure. It’s not working – good enough.

            Obviously most kids in Md do graduate and many go on to college and do well – but there is, like in Virginia, a significant number that are not doing as well – and it’s largely the kids from the lower economic echelons of our widening income gaps.

            No non-public school wants these kids either – much less would want to publish their academic performance – yet that’s the standard answer to the public schools “failing”.

        2. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

          Mr. Larry. I can’t tell the difference between the 1983 “A Nation At Risk Report” and the reports of today. It confirms that for the past 37 years public education cannot meet the mandate for it’s creation. 37 years from now the beat will go on. Nothing is going to significantly change. Education is just like the Washington Monument. A massive monolith that Americans do not fully understand, do not know how to change it, immovable due to its massive size, and always will be there.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            The problem is I agree with some of what you say but I have a more optimistic view of the future. If all of Europe and Asia can do better then so can the USA. We got it in us, we just need to get off our butts and do it.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            The problem is I agree with some of what you say but I have a more optimistic view of the future. If all of Europe and Asia can do better then so can the USA. We got it in us, we just need to get off our butts and do it.

          3. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

            In Europe and in Asia they are willing to accept that in life there are winners and losers. The United States is not willing to do such a thing. Public education is 150 years old this year in Virginia. How much more time do the politicians and bureaucrats need to get it right? We are out of time.

  16. LarrytheG Avatar

    Here’s what I know. We have 20 million kids a year go to college and many of them graduate and go into the economy to get good jobs and move the country forward – keeping us one of the most powerful countries in the world.

    These kids that go to college and graduate to go on to do these things came from high schools and they graduated with enough knowledge to be able to master the material needed to get a degree.

    That’s the bottom line.

    Yes, there are problems. There always are problems. There always will be problems. There always have been problems.

    I don’t diminish that. It’s the way the world works. We are one errant missile away from a nuclear winter… right?

    we just do the best we can do and keep moving.. that’s the gig.

    Anyone looking for nirvana – you’re on the wrong planet!

    Anyone looking for Nirvana Lite – ditto.

    Teaching is damn hard, not for everyone, and burns out others. Others survive and love teaching and find it worthwhile.. It is what it is.

  17. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” In Europe and in Asia they are willing to accept that in life there are winners and losers.”

    I’m confused. If their kids score HIGHER than our kids in math, reading and science – how does that translate into them accepting winners and losers?

    Shouldn’t we be trying to be as good as they are or better?

  18. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    Are they really better? India only requires mandatory education until you are 14 years old. 29% of India’s student population attends private school. 50% of urban students attend private school. That figure is 10% in the U.S. India requires a rigorous 6 part exam to matriculate from the 10th grade. If you don’t pass you cannot advance. In the 11th grade students in India must select a core studies path that leads to career paths in medicine, science, computers, etc. In the 12th grade another round of exams to matriculate to junior college. If you don’t pass you cannot advance. Then after that another round of exams to matriculate to a university. If you don’t pass….well you probably are getting the picture now. It is no wonder that the Indian students we see in the U.S. are highly motivated, disciplined, etc. It comes from an education system set by design to produce winners or losers. Only winners can advance.

  19. LarrytheG Avatar

    India is considered a developing country whose education system is down a notch from developed countries.

    The simple reality that we don’t want to admit is that our education system ranks near the bottom of developed countries:


    here’s details. We would rank 5th in the world if we only took the white only scores:


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