In a letter sent this week by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Council President Roger Berliner, Maryland’s strange decision-making structure for school funding is put into even clearer context.
Since the county government does not have the final say in matters of school employee salary increases and the like, these issues become a matter of diplomacy, rather than direction. At issue is the Montgomery County School Board’s plan to issue two cost-of-living increases for school employees this year. With county funding virtually insured by the newly strengthened maintenance of effort laws, the County’s only recourse is to offer guidance, as in the county’s letter.
From the letter:
For your recently announced collective bargaining agreements to include two base pay raises in one year seems incongruent with these concerns about classroom resources. The Board’s budget already indicated that its compensation would be more generous than any other County employee would receive. To add then a second raise for most employees to “restore” an increase that did not occur in FY11 is a concern, particularly when no employee in any other County agency will receive even one base pay increase. FY11, as you remember, was a year in which no County agency employees received a step increase, and in which all County employees except [public school] employees took furlough days.
Under Maryland state law, the county’s elected officials may not block or otherwise deny the school board’s decision to grant two raises in one year. Instead, the county’s letter offers guidance for future budgets and other priorities. Their summary entails these concerns succinctly:
We hope that the Boards’ choice to fund compensation increases in FY13 does not jeopardize its future ability to fund instructional and support elements that make our public school system a uniquely rich teaching and learning environment for our teachers and students.