MATT MORGAN: Right Here, Right Now


A few weeks ago, during a public speech, I addressed questions from the audience regarding education funding. This topic has become a hot-button issue as the Commissioners of St. Mary’s recently increased the county’s share of income taxes to the maximum legal limit to provide additional money for education. I also know our neighbors across the river in Calvert County are grappling with a similar decision.

This prompted me to consider the fundamental question: How can we determine when public education is adequately funded?

This fundamental question needs to be answered because we hear calls yearly for more money for public education. Yet, some would say that the school system already receives a huge portion of the budget locally and from the state, and the Board of Education needs to figure out how to live within its means. But which statement is accurate, and what are our other options?

Answering this question has sent me on a research quest. State funding depends on full-time enrollment, so I thought I would use a well-known calculation called the “per-pupil” funding amount and compare that amount to private school tuition rates in our area.

The journey to find information

First, I Googled the per-pupil funding amount for St. Mary’s County and got numerous old links and a bunch of totals that did not look correct. You will quickly realize this number is not easily accessible. I finally asked the library for the Department of Legislative Services to research it. They sent me the chart below.

With a little more research, I learned that St. Mary’s is ranked 11th in state dollars and 15th in county dollars; combined, we rank 21st compared to the rest of the state. The $17,056 per pupil expenditure may place St. Mary’s towards the bottom of the pack compared to other counties in Maryland, but while this is true, it doesn’t capture the whole picture.

It is always a mistake for policymakers to only look at year-over-year numbers. If you pull numbers from a budget two or three years ago, you can easily see spending trends. In this case, I pulled the 2021 per-pupil numbers and found that St. Mary’s per-pupil funding was just over $14,000 a few years ago. (Link 2021, page 2). A $3,000+ increase in state and local funding over three years is a sizable increase but only part of the story.

I have seen similar charts many times, and the problem with them is that they need to include federal money or capital costs.

Federal Money

Figuring out federal money can be tricky because the feds are always a few years behind. This chart provides the best publicly available data I could find.

The $1,514 is from 2021, and it is safe to say St. Mary’s schools receive more money from the feds now. Here is the Link to the raw numbers on federal funding, but for this purpose article, I am simply going to add the $1,514 to the previous $17,053 for a subtotal of $18,570 per student.

Now, on to the capital cost.

Capital Cost

The best public-available information on capital cost is this chart in the fiscal note of SB110 from this year.

So, to arrive at a per-pupil amount for the capital side of the budget, I will add the last five years of state capital costs, average and divide that by the total number of students. FY20, 21, 22, 23, 24 totals: $39,844,000/5/16,853 students = $473 per pupil in state capital cost. This brings the subtotal to $19,043 per pupil.

However, that does not include capital money allocated from the county government. Here is the link to the raw numbers. Local Capital Funding

Using the same five-year logic as above and from the data available from the county budgets for school years 2017-2022, the total money from the county government capital is $37,609,544. Average and divide that by the current number of students; the per-pupil funding increases by $446 per student in local capital funding.Add that to the above subtotal, and the funding increases to $19,489 per pupil.


How does that compare to the tuition prices of some of the private schools in our area? Well, per their website:

Ryken High School Tuition is $19,225 plus fees.

The Calverton School for high school-age children is $25,550.

Bishop McNamara $21,215 plus fees.

The King’s Christian Academy ranges per grade from $10,724 to $13,160 plus fees.

Mother Catherine Academy $6,495 plus fees k-8.


This comparison still isn’t an exact match, as some of the data I’m using on the public school side is outdated by a few years, and even the baseline figure is a year old. Therefore, the $19,489 per pupil funding in public schools is likely underestimated.

However, it is also essential to recognize that public schools provide services that private schools often do not, such as free meals and education for children with special needs. So, making the apple-to-apple comparison I was hoping for might be impossible. However, this exercise does provide some insight into the amount of funding our public schools receive compared to private schools.

Policymakers and taxpayers alike need to understand the complexities of school funding and make informed decisions that prioritize the education and well-being of our students. I have innovative ideas that could enhance education and offer much-needed financial relief. I will present these concepts in future letters and emails. This year, locally, we are lucky to have competitive school board elections; it’s crucial to keep education at the forefront and ask every candidate this question: How can we determine when public education is adequately funded? And in turn, how can we continue to strive for better education without breaking the bank?

**** I found it interesting when researching this email that student enrollment for our local schools has been down substantially since COVID-19. In the 2020-21 school year, St. Mary’s County reported 17,480 students (Link Legislative Handbook IX). Full-time Enrollment, as reported in 2024, has dropped to 16,853 students. Link 2024 Enrollment

Delegate Matt Morgan

Maryland General Assembly – District 29A

Authority:  Citizens For Matt Morgan, Kathleen Morgan Treasurer

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