As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Montgomery County Board of Education has asked that the State Board of Education issue a declaratory ruling to interpret several facets of the state’s “maintenance of effort” law. Were the County Board successful in its petition, counties not receiving a MOE waiver (through the much-debated process still under legislative review) would face an absolute mandate to fund at the MOE level. Further, the County Board seeks a ruling that a state provision granting extra budgetary powers to county councils also by implication denies councils the ability to cut the school budget. Counties have expressed broad concerns with these arguments, and today MACo is filing a letter to the State Board of Education to refute these interpretations.
This excerpt from MACo’s letter summarizes the essential positions counties take on the intended effect on state law:
In its March 2 brief, the County Board essentially argues that the State MOE law establishes an absolute mandate upon each county government to provide at least that funding level, unless a formal waiver is granted. Further, the County Board argues that State law’s limited mention of certain county councils’ authority to replace funding reductions effected by the county executive thereby precludes the councils any ability to reduce school funding levels as proposed by the county executive. On both topics, MACo argues that the selective reading of statute and legislative history required to reach these interpretations is inappropriate, and contrary to the intended effect of each statute. Further, consistent with widely accepted principles of statutory construction, we believe that the County Board’s suggested interpretations would yield a demonstrably absurd result, and should be rejected for that reason as well.
The State Board has not yet given clear indication on the timing or process to be used on this matter going forward, and whether their deliberations will include an opportunity for public or stakeholder comment.