2013 End of Session Wrap Up: Education

This post summarizes the status of education-related bills that MACo supported or opposed, now that the Session is over.

Creation of a State Debt – Qualified Zone Academy Bonds: HB 115/SB141, would provide $4,549,000 in grant funding to the Interagency Committee on School Construction and the Maryland State Department of Education for renovation, repair and capital improvement to schools under the qualified zone academy bond program.  MACo supported this legislation that provides funding for an important niche of projects that would not normally qualify as true capital projects eligible for general obligation bond (GO) funding. Status:  HB 115 was passed by the General Assembly.

State Aid for Public Education – Certification of Net Taxable Income: HB 229/SB227 would require State education aid formulas that include a local wealth component to be calculated twice, once using a net taxable income (NTI) amount for each county based on tax returns filed by September 1 and once using an NTI amount based on tax returns filed by November 1. Each local school system then receives the greater State aid amount of the results from the two calculations. The bill phases in the increased State aid over a five-year period, beginning in fiscal 2014. Under current law, net taxable income is calculated once, in September, which is too early to capture those who file their income tax during the six-month federal tax extension.  MACo supported this legislation which would shift the education aid calculation to look at the full scope of income, providing more equity in the formula and furthering the State’s and counties’ shared goal of providing educational opportunities to all Maryland’s schoolchildren. Status:  SB 227 was passed by the General Assembly.

Libraries – County Library Capital Project Grant – Wealth-Based Cost Share: HB 685/SB633 would establish a new minimum (50%) and maximum (90%) State share for a county library capital project. The State share percentage for an approved county library capital project is calculated by dividing the State aid formula grant amount by the full minimum program and multiplying the result by 1.25 to provide a minimum 50% State share. Under current law, the maximum State share of a county library capital project is 50%, which has prevented several counties from pursuing capital projects, and prevented the annual state funding allotment from being completely utilized. This law would provide more than 50% State share funding to twelve counties for their library capital grants. MACo supported this legislation stating that the counties, who share responsibility with the State for Maryland’s libraries, support the State’s continued commitment toward our common public infrastructure goals. Status: The General Assembly passed SB633.

County Boards of Education – Spending – Reporting Requirement: HB 926  would require each county board of education to submit a funding report on each public school in the county which includes the State, local, and federal per student spending at each school for students who qualified for State funding for compensatory education, limited English proficiency, and special education, as well as magnet students and all other students. Under the bill, the report would be made every three years to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).  MACo supported this legislation with amendments recommending the report also be sent to county governments, and, if possible, on an annual basis.  MACo stated that, as a partner in education funding, counties would benefit from this report, and that a yearly report would support the counties’ annual budget cycle. Status:  HB 926 had a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on February 27, but did not proceed further.

Education – Cooperative or Joint Administration of Programs: HB1459 would establish a yearly meeting for representatives of county boards of education and county governments to evaluate potential areas for cooperation or collaboration in their program administration. MACo supported this legislation stating that while an option for joint administration of programs exists in statute, without a yearly review process, it is possible that opportunities for collaboration remain undiscovered. HB 1459 creates a structure to discuss and advance such remaining opportunities, to better serve the schoolchildren and the taxpayers. Status:  HB 1459 had a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on March 15, but did not proceed further.

Procurement – Prevailing Wage – School Construction: SB667 lower the number of school construction projects mandated to comply with the State’s prevailing wage law. The current threshold State contribution for school construction, 50%, was modified from the original 75% threshold set in 1983. MACo supported enactment of SB667 because it could help reduce contract costs in eleven jurisdictions, most of which are among the most needy according to the State’s education funding formula. Status:  SB 667 had its hearing in the Senate Finance Committee on February 21, but did not proceed further.