Baltimore Sun Reviews School Funding Issues

In two recent articles, the Baltimore Sun’s Liz Bowie writes about the challenges with school funding, among the issues gaining attention during the 2012 General Assembly session.

(note: the Sun maintains a limited free view policy for online content)
January 12 Article
January 13 Article

On Thursday, the Sun caught comments from various stakeholders decrying counties’ inability to make the Maintenance of Effort funding target for FY 2012, including comments from legislative leaders:

“The counties aren’t doing their fair share,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Prince George’s County Democrat.

Miller said he intends to make sure the law mandates that local governments can’t decrease school funding. He said that he and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, both have “strong” opinions about the need for counties to maintain funding.

Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold explained the effects on the non-education components of a county budget:

Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, a Republican, said that spending on schools is crowding out funding for other agencies. Twenty years ago, the school budget represented 42 percent of the budget and today represents 52 percent. And during his tenure, Leopold said, the education budget has increased 17 percent while spending on all other agencies, including public safety, transportation and economic development, has declined.

“That speaks out for correction,” he said.

On Friday, some views from the Administration became clearer:

State leaders said one possible change this year could involve who pays the penalty assessed for not meeting the minimum funding. Currently, the penalty comes from the school system’s budget rather than the county government’s budget. “It doesn’t makes sense to take even more money out of the classroom if the counties don’t meet” the per-pupil minimum, said Rick Abruzzesse, director of public affairs for O’Malley.

But Abruzzesse said when the school systems do get more funding from the county governments they should make sure they are spending it in classrooms rather than using it to “bloat administrative functions.”

…with at least one additional view from the county perspective:

Many school systems got more money during good years, and county governments should be able to reduce budgets during the current hard times, according to Michael Sanderson, the executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties. He said county executives want to fund schools, but maintaining the minimum has “crushed” some of the other services of government.

He added, “Any claim that the last years have seen the state living up to its school funding targets but the counties falling flat is ignoring the fact that year after year the state has made more and deeper cuts and cost shift to county governments.”

Expect media coverage and legislative attention to remain focused on school funding and accountability issues, as multiple stakeholders remain intent on changes to these laws.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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