Now that Session is over, here is the final status on various education bills that MACo took a position on:
Maintenance of Effort: HB 44 /SB 53 expands and balances the process for considering county maintenance of effort (MOE) waiver requests. HB 869 provides that if a county failed to meet its MOE funding requirement, any assessed penalty would be applied in the next fiscal year rather than the current fiscal year. The bill also waived any MOE penalties for FY 2011. MACo supported both bills. Status: HB 44 passed the House but failed in the Senate. SB 53 also failed in the Senate. HB 869 passed with the FY 2011 penalty waiver language deleted but the penalty delay language, which was sought by MACo, intact.
Public School Construction: HB 636 / SB 189 makes school planning and design costs eligible for State public school construction funding. SB 625 requires that when the State reimburses the costs of a forward-funded public school construction project, the State must remit the funds directly to the county government, rather than a school board. MACo supported both bills. Status: Based on opposition from the Interagency Committee on School Construction, HB 636/SB 189 failed. SB 625 also failed.
Qualified Zone Academy Bond Funding: HB 86 / SB 122 authorizes the State to issue up to $15.9 million in Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs) for school construction projects. MACo supported the bill with an amendment specifying that the Aging Schools Program be funded, when practicable, with General Funds rather than general obligation bonds or QZABs. Status: Both HB 86 and SB 122 passed with amendments allowing the QZAB funding to be also used for public charter schools. MACo’s proposed amendment, which was meant as a “message”, was not adopted.
Public Charter Schools: HB 231 / SB 123 establishes a Public Charter School Facility Revolving Loan Fund to lend money to public charter schools for facility construction or maintenance. MACo opposed the bill because the Fund would take money from the public school construction program and also require a local school board or county to repay the loan if a public charter school defaulted. Status: Both HB 231 and SB 123 failed.
Public School Choice: HB 977 allows a parent or guardian to choose which school within a county their child shall enroll in. MACo opposed the bill, citing the significant administrative costs and burden on local boards of education and the planning and construction challenges for new schools. Status: HB 977 failed.
Regional Institutes for Children and Adolescents: HB 1297 is a departmental bill that provides the State and counties shall collectively share in the cost of educating children with disabilities at the State’s three Regional Institutes for Children and Adolescents (RICAs), similar to what is currently done for children with disabilities in a nonpublic program. MACo expressed concerns about the bill and would have likely opposed had it been necessary. Status: Based on the preliminary concerns raised by MACo and the Maryland State Department of Education, the bill was withdrawn by its sponsor, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.