A county panel testified Wednesday in support of SB 53, legislation to reform the waiver process for counties in jeopardy of missing the “maintenance of effort” (MOE) target set under state education law. Under this state law, a county failing to fund its schools with at least as much per pupil funding as the prior year may lose its incremental increase in state funds for the coming budget year. The waiver process, established in 1996, was designed as a “release” for difficult economic times, but recent deliberations by the State Board of Education have shone light on that process.
MACo has adopted Maintenance of Effort Waiver Reform as one of its legislative initiatives for 2011, after seeing a bill nearly pass in the 2010 session. SB 53 is a re-introduction of the bill in the form that nearly passed in 2010.
Testifying on behalf of SB 53 were:
Isiah Leggett, Montgomery County Executive
Valerie Ervin, Montgomery County Council President
Rick Pollitt, Wicomico County Executive
Michael Sanderson, MACo Executive Director
MACo sought one amendment to the version of SB 53 as introduced — a delay in the implementation of the “penalty.” Mr. Sanderson argued that giving only about five weeks’ time between a final decision on a county waiver and the beginning of the affected fiscal year was inadequate. “Withhold the funds in the next year, that gives the county and the schools some time to plan for it, but keeps your incentives in place,” he argued.
MACo’s written testimony is available online here.