2014 End of Session Wrap-Up: Education

This post summarizes the status of bills affecting K-12 education funding and budgeting in the 2014 Legislative Session.

Maintenance of Effort – Qualifying Nonrecurring Costs – Methods of Approval: HB1145 encourages additional partnership in education by making a few small improvements to the process for funding one-time school costs for technology and new program start-up expenditures. HB 1145 provides a specific list of nonrecurring costs, a simplified application process, and a better deadline for counties and schools that make a joint application for the nonrecurring cost exclusion. This legislation was a MACo initiative and MACo supported the bill and worked closely with the bill’s sponsor and other education advocates on this topic throughout session. Status: While HB 1145 was not passed, the General Assembly adopted budget language requiring a Maryland State Department of Education report on nonrecurring costs over the past five years. In the budget narrative, legislators stated their intention that greater transparency regarding nonrecurring costs would incentivize additional education spending. For more information, see our post, Budget Will Require MSDE Report on “Nonrecurring Costs”.

County Boards of Education – Spending – Reporting Requirement: HB 232  requires each county board of education to submit a report that on State, local, and federal per-student spending at each school including spending on compensatory education, limited English proficiency, and special education, and magnet students. Under the bill, the report is made every three years.  MACo supported this legislation with amendments recommending the report also be sent to county governments, and, if possible, on an annual basis. Status: Following HB 926’s hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, the Sponsor accepted MACo’s amendments, however the bill did not proceed further this year.

Prekindergarten Expansion Act of 2014 SB 332/HB 297 seeks to expand prekindergarten services to four-year-old children from families whose income is no more than 300% of the federal poverty guidelines by establishing a competitive grant program to provide funding to qualified public and private prekindergarten providers. According to the legislation, if funds are provided for the Prekindergarten Expansion Grant Program in the State budget, then at least the same amount must be provided in subsequent years. The budget passed by the General Assembly included $4.3 million for the Prekindergarten Expansion Grant Program. For more information, see our previous post, Pre-Kindergarten Bill Moves Closer To Passage. Status: SB 332/HB 297 was passed by the General Assembly and was signed into law by the Governor on April 8, 2014.

Fairness in Negotiations Act and the Public School Labor Relations Board – Sunset Repeal and Reporting Requirements HB 1181/SB 1066 repeals a sunset clause applying to the Public School Labor Relations Board, a Board established to administer and enforce labor relations laws for local boards of education and their employees. Based on continuing concerns regarding the Board’s referral of cases, timeline for deciding cases, and compliance with the Open Meetings Act, MACo supported the bill with an amendment that would have extended the sunset on the Board three more years, allowing the Board to work to address these issues, without prematurely removing the sunset entirely. While this amendment was not accepted, the bill was amended to include additional reporting requirements that will provide transparency on these areas of concern. Status: HB 1181/SB 1066 was passed with amendments by the General Assembly and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Education – State Grant to Counties With Small and Declining Student Enrollment HB 814/SB 534 requires the State to provide a grant in fiscal 2015 through 2017 to a local board of education if (1) full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment is less than 5,000, (2) FTE enrollment in the current fiscal year is less than the prior fiscal year, and (3) “total direct education aid” in the current fiscal year is less than the prior fiscal year by more than 1%. The grant must equal 50% of the decrease in total direct education aid. Under this legislation, State education aid in FY2015 increases by $464,100 for Garrett County and increases by $131,000 for Kent County. For background on this legislation, see our previous post, House Narrows “Half Harmless” Education Funding Bill To Small Counties. Status: HB814/SB 534 was passed by the General Assembly and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

For more news in education, see our post, 2014 Session Wrap-Up: School Construction.

For more information on the bills in this article, contact Robin Clark or (410) 269-0043.