Montgomery County Schools Select Smith as New Superintendent

As reported by the Washington Post, Maryland’s Interim State Superintendent has been named Montgomery School Superintendent.

As described in the article,

Montgomery County named Jack R. Smith, Maryland’s interim state superintendent of schools, as its schools chief Thursday, ending a year-long search for a leader to take over the 156,000-student system.

Board of Education members voted unanimously to hire Smith, 58, as superintendent of the district, the state’s largest. It faces challenges posed by surging enrollment, budget shortfalls and increasing numbers of children who live in poverty.

For more information on Smith and his background, see the full story from the Washington PostInterim state superintendent Jack Smith to lead Montgomery schools.

In the meantime, legislation has been introduced that would change the appointment process for Maryland’s State Superintendent.

The legislation states that the State Board of Education must appoint a State Superintendent with the advice and consent of the Senate on or before April 1 of the year in which a term ends. Under current law, the Board of Education would appointment a new superintendent by July 1 of the year, when the legislature is not in session.

For more information about that legislation, see the Department of Legislative Service’s bill summary page on State Board of Education – State Superintendent of Schools – Appointment.

MACo: Additional Funding for Libraries Key for Full Economic Recovery

On February 4, 2016, MACo Research Director, Robin Clark Eilenberg, submitted written testimony to the House Health and Governmental Operations Committee in support of HB 144, Libraries – Regional, State, and County – Funding.

This legislation would provide additional funding for county libraries by accelerating increases to the library funding formula.

Maryland’s counties share funding responsibility with the State for our libraries and support additional resources for them. County governments directed more than $200 million of their operating budget general funds in fiscal year 2016 to supporting libraries.

From the MACo testimony,

Counties are proud to support libraries because they are an integral facet to a county’s ability to build community, and we would appreciate additional State support to help them further their aims. An acceleration in State funding will help libraries to continue to offer community services that are key to our full economic recovery.

For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.

Which Maryland County Schools Will Give Students Off for Lunar New Year?

MACo County Trivia

Monday, February 8 is Lunar New Year.

This week’s question:

Which Maryland County School Board Will Give Students Off for the Eve of Lunar New Year, Beginning in 2017?

lunarnewyear13_1327179420A Lunar New Year parade in downtown Rockville, Maryland, image courtesy of Marvin Joseph/THE WASHINGTON POST.

Tweet @mdcounties or email Kaley at with your answer.

A correct answer will be chosen at random and the winner and answer will be published in next week’s This Week on Conduit Street. 

Congratulations to Lynn Karr, the winner of last week’s trivia. Karr correctly identified Backbone Mountain located in Garrett County as being the highest point in Maryland. Karr is a Budget Analyst for Carroll County Government.

To see the highest and lowest points throughout Maryland, see the Maryland Geological Survey.


MACo Opposes Expanding Apprenticeship Requirements for School Construction

On February 3, 2016 MACo Research Director, Robin Clark Eilenberg, testified to the House Health and Governmental Operations Committee in opposition of HB 108, Capital Budget – Construction Projects – Apprenticeship Requirements.

This legislation creates apprenticeship requirements for any project that receives $100,000 or more in the state capital budget. The legislation expands existing apprenticeships requirements for school construction projects and other public works projects.

Extending apprenticeship requirements as envisioned in the legislation could reduce the number of contractors who bid on school construction contracts. Reducing the number of bidders is likely to reduce competition and drive-up costs.

From the MACo testimony,

In recent years, the school construction industry has been subject to additional labor and environmental regulations. These regulations have the effect of directly increasing labor costs, and of discouraging small contractors from the construction market.

An identical cross-filed bill, SB 457, is scheduled to be heard on February 18 in the Senate.

For more on MACo 2016 legislation, visit the Legislative Database.

Seat Belt Mandate Bill Triggers Big Cost Concerns

MACo Policy Analyst, Robin Clark Eilenberg, testified to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in opposition to SB 183, School Vehicles – Seat Belts – Requirements on February 2, 2016. The bill would require every school vehicle registered in Maryland to be equipped with seat belts for every seat in the vehicle.

MACo appreciates the bill’s underlying goal of improving student safety on school vehicles. The reason for MACo’s opposition is not the policy change; the reason is the cost of the mandate.

Maryland school boards do not have independent ability to raise revenue. They are completely dependent on county, state, and federal funding. As this bill does not reference any state or federal funding, it is a mandate that requires 100% local funding.

From MACo’s testimony,

Achieving the aims of the bill through either retrofitting existing school buses or purchasing new school buses has been estimated to cost more than $50 million. Without a State partnership to reach the policy aims of SB 183, this legislation represents an unfunded mandate on local school boards.

 For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.


Nine Maryland Counties Must “Escalate” Education Funding

The State’s draft calculations for Major State Aid Programs in education reveals nine counties must increase their maintenance of effort in fiscal 2017.

In Maryland, where school boards do not have independent taxing authority, counties and the state support education programs.

All counties combined regularly provide almost half of their total budgets to K-12 education. They will need to do more this year, however, according to a state law and projected data for FY 2017.

The state’s maintenance of effort law requires counties to increase their education funding when:

  1. Statewide and county wealth is increasing, and
  2. The county’s education funding as a percentage of wealth is less than average.

The wealth calculations are made on a per-pupil basis, and the average is considered over a five year period.

This element of education law is relatively new and, because in the past few years statewide wealth has been declining, the law had no effect. This year, nine counties could be affected, with estimated required increases of up to 2.3%.

The affected counties, and the projected required increases are as follows:

  • Allegany, 1.7%
  • Baltimore City, 2.3%
  • Caroline, 0.2%
  • Dorchester, 1.5%
  • Garrett, 2.35
  • Kent, 2.3%
  • Somerset, 2.3%
  • Wicomico, 0.2%
  • Worcester, 1.0%

For more information, see the State education aid report from the Maryland State Department of Education and our previous posts on Conduit Street, Q&A: Maryland’s Education Funding Escalator.

Sponsors Sign-on for Pre-K Legislation

A bill to expand Pre-Kindergarten enrollment statewide is anticipated in the 2016 Session of the Maryland General Assembly.

In this last State of the Union Address, President Obama announced several goals in education policy. One of those goals was “providing Pre-K for all.”

We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job. The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, boosted graduates in fields like engineering. In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all and offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one. We should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.

Screenshot 2016-02-01 08.49.41
Over the past ten years, Maryland has increased Pre-K enrollment by more than 25%.

Legislation to extend free Pre-K to more students is anticipated in Maryland, too. As was reported by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE), they have senate and house sponsors for the legislation now,

MABE is pleased to report that Senator Joan Carter Conway and Delegate Alonzo Washington have agreed to sponsor the Prekindergarten Enrollment and Funding legislation supported by a broad education coalition.

Screenshot 2016-02-01 08.49.34.png
There are currently almost 30,000 children enrolled in public Pre-K in Maryland.

For more information on this session’s legislation in education, see the GreenSheet update on education issues from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.

For information about current law and funding for Pre-K programs in Maryland, see our previous post, Pre-K Grants Begin, as Funding Debate Continues and see the recent report of the Adequacy in Education Study, Final Report of the Study of Increasing and Declining Enrollment in Maryland Public Schools.

Maryland Closes “Honesty Gap” With New Student Assessments

Students scored much lower on PARCC tests as compared with the previous statewide assessment, but the PARCC scores were more closely aligned with the rigorous National Assessment of Educational Progress.

A guest blogger on Education Week described how new student assessments have closed the gap between their state and national performance measures, bringing to two in line. Maryland is one of those states.

Maryland first implemented its new assessment, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in the 2014-2015 school year. Student performance on the assessment was low as compared with the previous assessment used.

Screenshot 2016-01-31 15.06.21
Maryland’s test scores dropped with the implementation of the PARCC student assessment. Data from Education Week.

Maryland’s PARCC scores were much more closely aligned with student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), than previous state assessments, however.

Screenshot 2016-01-31 15.29.13
Many states, including Maryland, are closing the gap between state and national standards with new assessments. Data from Education Week.

For example, on fourth grade reading levels, Maryland’s 2013-2014 assessment was 41 percentage points apart from the national assessment. In the 2014-2015 year, it was only 3 percentages points different.

Other states with new assessments are also closing the gap.

For more information, see the blog article, States Are Closing the ‘Honesty Gap’ in Test Results, Study Says, and the full report, Proficient vs. Prepared 2016: State Test Results are Getting Closer to Student Achievement on NAEP

Counties Appeal for School Construction Funds

Limited state funding is key for counties seeking to meet student needs for new and updated learning environments.

As reported in the Capital-Gazette, Anne Arundel County joined counties from across the state in the Governor’s Reception Room to ask the Administration for school construction funding. The Governor’s 2017 capital budget set aside $314 million in school construction funding.

Anne Arundel County requested additional funding from the State to complete high school and elementary school projects throughout the county, as described in the Capital,

Governor Larry Hogan’s budget proposes to give $25 million to Anne Arundel County for school construction projects, but school system officials made their case Wednesday for another $30 million.

Anne Arundel County is one of several counties with increasing enrollment and an aging stock of schools.

As counties seek to address school construction needs, many school construction project costs are coming in far above estimates. When that happens, state funding is often already allocated, and counties are left to supply the difference out of their own budgets to make sure that needed project advance.

According to stakeholders, dramatic cost increases may be due to a variety of factors including:

  • Economic changes in the construction market,
  • Enhanced technology in school buildings (both structural upgrades and classroom technology), and
  • Regulatory requirements such as prevailing wage, stormwater management, emergency sheltering requirements, and energy efficiency standards applied to schools.

Commissioner John Barr, MACo President spoke with Your4State about this issue from the State House yesterday,

Tremendous need for new schools, updated schools and the number of schools that need advancements or rehabilitation are rather staggering… the states and counties together are just finding it more difficult to keep up. -John Barr, President of the Maryland Association of Counties

For more information, read the whole story in the CapitalSchool system jockeys for state construction money and coverage from Your4State, Maryland school officials request more funding for construction projects

Governor’s Mandate Relief Bill Spares K-12 Education Funding

As reported in the Washington Post, the Governor’s proposal for mandate relief does not affect education funding.

Hogan (R) filed legislation this week that would pause many of the state’s statutory spending hikes when revenue is projected to rise less than 2 percent compared with the previous year. The measure, which was read on the Senate floor Thursday morning, would first apply to the fiscal 2019 budget.

The proposal would exempt the state’s funding formulas for K-12 education, debt payments, the state-employee pension program and the reserve fund. But it would affect all other funding formulas that require specific levels of annual spending, including those that support community colleges, private higher-education institutions and wages for day-care workers who help the developmentally disabled.

For more information, read the full story from the Post, Md. K-12 education funding unaffected by Hogan’s mandate-relief plan and read the full legislation, Relief From Budget Mandates, on the Department of Legislative Services website.