House Builds its Approach to Maintenance of Effort Waivers

The House Ways and Means Committee’s Education Subcommittee met today, and granted preliminary approval to an amended version of HB 304, legislation seeking to alter the process for granting waivers from the maintenance of effort law for school board funding. The bill and amendments will soon go before the full Ways and Means Committee for their vote.

MACo had sought several amendments to the bill to add further considerations to HB 304 or other MOE-related legislation. The bill now moving in Ways and Means includes very little from the list of county-requested considerations.

MACo had sought an independent, expedited appeal process from a waiver denial by the State Board of Education. Instead, the W&M bill will provide the first level of waiver claim be made to the Superintendent of Schools, with an appeal then following to the State Board of Education, whose decision is final. Currently, the waiver request is direct to the State Board of Education — who rendered the perplexing denial judgments for FY 2010 that have led directly to the wide consensus on the need for remedial legislation.

The W&M bill will also alter the mechanism for assessing the “penalty” on a jurisdiction failing to reach its MOE target, and being denied a waiver through this process. Under the amended bill, the State would withhold funding to that county’s Board of Education in the following fiscal year, rather than the year in which the funding was deemed to have been below MOE. For example, if a county fails to make its MOE target in the coming year’s budget (FY 2011), the State would apply the appropriate reduction of funding in its FY 2012 budget, rather than withhold funds already appropriated for FY 2011.

The bill also creates a new timeline for filing and considering the waiver requests. As an emergency bill, the legislation would be in effect upon its date of passage — meaning these rules would apply to any waiver requests to be filed for the coming year, FY 2011.

These changes are added to those proposed in the original bill, drafted to codify and expand the list of “considerations” for a county requesting a waiver. MACo had agreed with those inclusions, but had sought more substantive additions to the process.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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