School Funding, School Construction Are Topics of 2016 Issue Papers

Legislative analysts provide updates on maintenance of effort, the education adequacy study, and alternatives to public school construction methods.

Every year the Department of Legislative Services writes issue papers for the upcoming legislative session. This year’s issue papers include several topics in education policy that are relevant for county governments.

To read the full Issue Paper sections below, use the following links:

Education State Education Aid and Maintenance of Effort

Funding for education is a constant factor for county governments, who together direct more than half of their operating budgets towards K-12 education.

The maintenance of effort law in education requires counties to maintain the same amount of per-pupil funding from year-to-year. Fiscal 2017 will likely mark the first year that the maintenance of effort escalator clause will be activated, requiring seven counties to automatically increase their maintenance of effort payments.

The escalator clause provides that if the County’s education “effort” in the given year is less than the statewide average for the previous 5-year period, the County may have to provide additional funding. “Effort” is defined as funding as a percentage of wealth, calculated by the Maryland State Department of Education. The additional amount required by the escalator is equal to the lesser of the County increase in per pupil wealth, the State average increase in per pupil wealth, or 2.5%.

As described by the Department of Legislative Services,

Preliminary estimates suggest that statewide per pupil local wealth will increase slightly from fiscal 2016 to 2017. Therefore, if this finding holds when actual wealth and enrollment figures pertaining to fiscal 2017 aid are available in January 2016, an estimated seven jurisdictions will be required to increase their MOE appropriations (by less than 2% in each case) in fiscal 2017 under this provision.

Adequacy of Education Funding Study

Work on the state’s study of adequate funding for education continues. This study was required by the Bridge to Excellence in Education Act and is slated for completion by December 1, 2016.

Several interim reports of the study have been released. MACo’s Executive Director Michael Sanderson represents county governments on the Adequacy Study Stakeholder Group. For more information, see our previous posts.

This year, education advocates will be proposing legislation to create a commission to review the study and prepare legislative recommendations. County governments were represented on the original Thornton Commission and MACo expects to have county representation on the new commission.

Public School Construction

Public school construction remains a hot topic statewide. Increasing costs of construction and limited state funding are fueling interest in alternative approaches to school construction, including public-private partnerships, and scrutiny of school construction standards.

The report shares come of what legislators have been considering,

During the 2015 legislative interim, there have been discussions regarding different approaches to school construction and the costs associated with alternative delivery compared to traditional public school construction methods. Both the IAC [Interagency Committee on School Construction] and MSA [the Maryland Stadium Authority] have been asked to report on potential cost savings associated with alternative methods that have been used by public contract and charter schools to build to commercial standards at a lower construction cost than traditional public schools.

Monarch Academy facilities in Laurel in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City were visited to determine the differences between traditional public school buildings and public charter and contract school buildings, which do not have to follow all of the same State rules or school system practices if they are not receiving public capital funds. Monarch Academy (Monarch) is a nonprofit organization that operates public charter and contract schools in Maryland.

For more information on school construction, see our previous posts, MACo Joins Radio Show on School ConstructionCost Savings Spelled Out In Recent School Construction StudyLever: School Construction Costs “Booming” For Economic, Policy Reasons.

For more information on various topics in education and other subject-areas, read all of the Issue Papers from the Department of Legislative Services.