Some County Unions Ask State to Examine Maintenance of Effort law

As published in today’s Gazette, Three public employee unions from Montgomery County have written a letter to Governor O’ Malley asking him and the state legislature to reconsider  a provision in the law, known as “maintenance of effort” which requires school systems to fund education at or above the same level as the prior year.

The provision states that in order to qualify for increases in state education funding, counties must fund their school systems at least at the same level of per-pupil funding as the previous fiscal year.

Renne, Sparks and Zifcak said the governor and legislature should consider that public education is only one service county government provides. They asked the state to consider giving counties more “predictability and latitude” to invest in schools without hurting other government services by amending the maintenance-of-effort provision.

“Failure to do so now will result in continued tensions for jurisdictions caught amidst competing claims for declining revenues, ultimately pitting many deserving constituencies against each other,” the three union presidents wrote to O’Malley (D).

Maintenance of Effort Reform is once again a MACo legislative initiative for the 2011 session. MACo’s summary of the initiative reads as follows:

In the 2010 session, MACo supported reform of the State’s Maintenance of Effort (MOE) waiver after three counties were rejected by the State Board of Education, including Montgomery County.  While the General Assembly adopted some one-time remedies in the 2010 session (granting an exemption to Montgomery County from the penalty for not meeting MOE for FY 2010) and the State Board granted waivers to two counties that requested it (Montgomery and Wicomico for FY 2011) the core issues of the current waiver system remain.  Legislation should replace the current waiver system with a clearer and fairer process for evaluating county hardships in waiver requests.  MACo will also defend against changes to the MOE system that would be harmful to county budget autonomy.

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