Montgomery school board takes pre-emptive action to protect budget
State action sought to limit cuts
In a March 2 memo, attorneys for the county Board of Education requested that the state board advise the Montgomery County Council that it cannot fund the school system below a state-imposed standard the maintenance of effort.
The memo also requests that the state board rule that the council cannot lower the proposed school system's budget that County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) will release March 15.
Maintenance of effort requires counties to fund their public schools at the same per-pupil level as the previous year, in order to receive increases in state aid for those schools.
In the memo, the county board states that the council does not have the authority to reduce the school system's budget under state law.
The board is using the same legal opinion it stated in a threatened lawsuit against the council last year. The council disagrees with the legal opinion.
In May, school officials said they would sue if the council cut the system's operating budget beyond what was proposed by Leggett. The council ended up approving a $1.4 billion budget for the school system last year $20 million below what Leggett proposed.
The school system also receives $700 million in federal and state funding.
"They didn't learn anything from last year," Councilman Marc B. Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park said of the school system. "They immediately go to the guns as quickly as possible."
Elrich said the school board is "clueless as far as how they work with people."
In its lawsuit last year, the school board said the cuts would cause "irreparable injury" to Montgomery County Public Schools.
Montgomery County Board of Education President Christopher S. Barclay (Dist. 4) of Takoma Park said Monday that the board was seeking clarification on the law from the state board.
"Last year, folks were talking about injunctions and on and on. That's not what we're talking about here," he said. "We have to protect the interest of our school board and our school budget."
When asked if another lawsuit was possible, Barclay said, "It's a long, long time before we'll be anywhere near that."
Montgomery County Council President Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring said she and Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring met with Barclay on Friday, and he did not mention the memo to the state board.
The Columbia law firm representing the school board, Carney, Kelehan, Bresler, Bennett & Scherr LLP the same firm that drafted the lawsuit on behalf of the board last year sent the memo to the council via regular mail March 2.
The council did not receive it until Monday.
Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Education, said the state board had not received the memo as of 4 p.m. Monday.
Staff Writer Andrew Ujifusa contributed to this report.