Bill to Offset Declining Enrollment Moving in Legislature

House Bill 684, “Education – Grant for Declining Education Aid,” has passed the full House and crossed over to the Senate. MACo supports HB 684, which would help to offset the sudden drop-off in education funding to jurisdictions with declining enrollment, ensuring school systems can offer equivalent courses and programs, even with fewer students.

The bill was amended to allow jurisdictions with declining enrollment average their student populations over three years, rather than account for single-year changes, and allow them to factor all-day pre-K student populations into total enrollment. The House Appropriations Committee also amended the bill to provide grant funding for three years instead of just for one year, as was originally proposed.

Five Jurisdictions–Baltimore City, Calvert County, Carroll County, Garrett County, and Talbot County–are slated to lose a combined $45M in state education funding in 2018. Baltimore City is the most deeply affected, with a $38m loss in year-to-year total state education funds.

From the MACo testimony,

Counties value public education as a high priority, and an essential service and benefit to the citizens and the economy. State Budgeting formulas and requirements complicate this commitment, especially because nearly all state education funding is distributed on a per-pupil basis, meaning that the more students a school system serves, the more funding it receives.

By contrast, when the number of students declines, schools can experience a sudden drop in funding. This dynamic can strain local budgets – reflecting the reality that not every dollar spent in a school system is truly a “variable cost.” A sudden drop in students across a county school system may mean some cost savings in bus transportation and meals service – but may not have any effect on “fixed costs,” which account for most system-wide expenditures on education and administration.

To learn more about Maryland’s school budgeting formula, read “Why do Five Jurisdictions Lose $45M in Education Funds?” on MACo’s Conduit Street Blog.

For more on MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session, visit our Legislative Tracking Database.