Maintenance of Effort hearings in House and Senate

The main legislation addressing Maintenance of Effort — one of MACo’s legislative initiatives for 2010 — was heard in both the Senate and House Committees yesterday.

MACo has focused on reform of the waiver process as its legislative priority — this summary from the list of MACo’s initiatives for the year:

School Budget Accountability – MOE Reform

Summary: Facing deep State budget cuts and declining local revenues, many counties contemplated waivers from the State Maintenance of Effort law. Three counties who actually pursued the waiver through the State Board of Education were all rejected, with several disturbing rationale cited by the State Board. The current waiver process suggests an avenue for consideration of county budget difficulties, but the adjudication by the State Board (a body charged with advocating for public education, and without any expertise in government budgets or financing) may leave counties without meaningful redress in times of fiscal crisis. Legislation could eliminate, or replace, the current waiver system with a clearer and fairer process for evaluating county hardships in waiver requests.

The chief bills being heard on February 24 were products of the Joint Work Group on State, County, and Municipal Fiscal Relationships. Those bills, SB 310 and HB 304, would offer greater guidance in the State Board of Education’s consideration of waiver requests, and alter their timing and resolution.

MACo testified in support of waiver reform, seeking amendments to the bill to add additional provisions to allow an expedited appeal of the State Board’s decision, create an extraordinary and limited “economic waiver” as an objective process for the toughest economic circumstances, and require the State Board to honor agreements between the County and the local Board of Education. County Executives Ike Leggett, Jack Johnson, and Rick Pollitt — representing the three counties who sought but were denied waivers for FY 2010 by the State Board of Education, testified in favor of the legislation and MACo’s reform suggestions.

Additional bills on the MOE topic were also heard by their respective committees:

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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