With the 2017 session of the Maryland General Assembly nearing completion, the Legislature spent considerable time this week finalizing the state’s FY18 budget. Nonpublic schools fared well despite a session of highs and lows as the cherished funding programs became the target for increased opposition and hostility. In the end, the BOOST (Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today) Scholarship program received additional funds, enabling more children to receive a nonpublic school education, while also providing renewal scholarships to every students who received one in the program’s first year.
The initial proposal in Governor Larry Hogan’s budget was to increase BOOST funding for the 2017-2018 school year from $5 million to $7 million, as part of his three year proposal to eventually double the program. That funding was struck from the budget by the House of Delegates leaving only $2 million for the program and only allowing students who transferred from public school to utilize the scholarships, but the program and funding was upheld in its entirety by the Senate. In the budget reconciliation process that took place earlier this week, a compromise was reached to increase the funding to $5.5 million and a add a few tweaks to the program’s guidelines.
This result provides welcomed assurances to the Jewish day school community that its parent body will once again see a benefit of over $1 million in tuition relief. In addition to the BOOST funding increase, the state’s nonpublic school textbook/technology program and the school construction grant program were funded at last year’s levels thus securing a record level of state funding to nonpublic schools for the second consecutive year.