The Maryland State Board of Education will not intervene in a funding dispute between the Baltimore City school system and seven charter school operators who claimed the district improperly withheld funding tied to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation.

The decision issued this week means Baltimore City Public School system can keep 25% of the Blueprint funding earmarked for charter schools. System administrators have said the funds are necessary to offset the cost of services that should be shared by all public schools, including charters, such as special education and pre-kindergarten.

Although Maryland law requires school systems to put at least 75% of funding tied to the Blueprint reform plan toward individual schools, state board members said local school boards have discretion in determining how the remaining 25% is spent.

Afya Baltimore Inc., Baltimore Montessori Inc., City Neighbors, KIPP Baltimore Inc., Patterson Park Public Charter School Inc., New Song Community Learning Center, and Living Classrooms Foundation had petitioned the Maryland State Department of Education in February to intervene in the funding formula. The seven charter operators, represented by Christopher Gunderson of Venable LLP, argued the system was not authorized under the law to impose a mandatory fee, and asked to reduce the amount to 2%.

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Gunderson and representatives from the seven public charter operations did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday morning. A representative for the Maryland Alliance of Public Charter Schools, which was not a party in the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement Wednesday evening, City school system officials said the state’s opinion “correctly recognizes our efforts to implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act to ensure all students, especially the most vulnerable, can access the robust educational opportunities they have always deserved.”

“City Schools appreciates the broad support from many charter operators, special education advocates, and state organizations,” the statement said. “We hope that the State Board’s decision marks a final resolution so we can all focus on our shared mission of educational equity for City School students.”

Baltimore City is home to a majority of the state’s charter operators. Five of the seven charter school operators who petitioned the state education department were among those who sued the city school system in 2015, arguing that the district was not consistent or transparent in how it allocated funding. According to the Maryland Judiciary website, the case remains open in circuit court.

Baltimore Banner reporter Kristen Griffith contributed to this story.

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