MACo Associate Director Les Knapp testified in support of SB 476 with amendments before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on February 16. The bill, sponsored by Senator Ulysses Currie, would retroactively waive the maintenance of effort (MOE) penalty for FY 2010 and require a study of how the MOE “penalty” is calculated and on whom the penalty should be assessed.
Citing the summary rejection of all three counties that requested a waiver by the State Board of Education (SBE) last year, Mr. Knapp argued that the waiver process is broken and that relief should be retroactively granted to Montgomery County, which is the only county of the three that is facing a penalty for failing to meet MOE. He stated that unless the penalty is waived, $23.4 million in State MOE aid will be withheld from Montgomery County schools in FY 2011.
However, Mr. Knapp questioned the need for a penalty study, arguing that absent a pattern of counties failing to meet MOE, there is no need to alter the penalty provision. He also argued that if the penalty were shifted onto the counties would alter the nature of the MOE system from “carrot and stick” approach to a local funding mandate and would require county elected officials to set tax rates and fund education at levels that hinder their ability to balance their county budgets. He offered an amendment that would strike the study language from the bill.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett also testified in support of the bill, who expressed his frustration that the waiver issue “could and should have been resolved by the State Board of Education”.
The Maryland State Education Association; the Maryland Association of Boards of Education; the Montgomery County Board of Education; and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees all supported the need to study the penalty provision.