Despite the frustration and disgust among Montgomery County council members with recent changes to the state education funding law, no push to revise the requirement appears in the works for January.
In the 2012 session, the Maryland General Assembly updated the waiver process and empowered the state to intercept income tax revenue and divert it to education if a county fails to meet maintenance of effort, a requirement that counties fund education at the same amount per student as the year before.
Among state lawmakers there is no “appetite” to make more changes to the MOE law in the upcoming session which starts Jan. 9, said Sen. Nancy King (D-Dist. 39) of Montgomery Village.
Even if the state legislature were to change MOE in the future, King said it likely would not do so this close to the last changes.
No new information has emerged that didn’t exist when the legislature passed changes to MOE last session, said Del. Ben Kramer (D-Dist. 19) of Silver Spring.
Changing the statutory minimums also will not be a priority of the Maryland Association of Counties next session. MACo had discussed a possible push to change MOE law again, but its did not make its final list of priorities, said Andrea Mansfield, MACo’s legislative director.
County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said the county sought changes last session which went nowhere, so he doubts any changes are likely this year.
Kramer had proposed that counties, like Montgomery, with a history of exceeding MOE, should have an easier waiver process. His amendments failed to pass.
Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda said the law forces counties now to be more conservative in good economic times as the ability to give less than MOE when it falls on bad economic times is diminished.
It may be too soon to push for changes, such as an automatic waiver for good counties that fall on bad economic times, but Berliner said he believes those discussions could happen in the future, perhaps when Montgomery County Public Schools proposes a budget dependent on funding above maintenance of effort.
For most of the last decade, Montgomery had funded its public school system above the required amount per student each year.
Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Takoma Park said MOE is one of the most unwise policy decisions he has ever seen a government make.
“It’s not based on achieving excellence in our schools,” he said. “It is simply an arbitrary number.”
Councilman Craig Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said when he served in the General Assembly he was trying to keep the best interest of students at heart, when making decisions. MOE doesn’t do that, he said.
“The characterization that the new MOE law is good is incorrect,” Rice said. “What is does is it ends up putting the very services that surround our children against each other.”