Senate’s Kirwan Blueprint Bill: What’s In It For Counties?

The Senate if moving its own heavily-amended version of the school funding bill – here, we analyze the components of the bill that affect county governments.

HB 1300 is the vehicle for the all-encompassing fiscal and policy recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, the so-called “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.” The Senate committees have adopted a lengthy series of amendments to the bill, driving the bill text (in the latest “reprint” incorporating the amendment language) to around 229 pages. Here, we try to review the major components in the bill that carry over effects to county governments, whose role in schools is essentially as a funding source.

magnifying-glass-145942_960_720First – the bill still contains most of the provisions already discussed earlier in the session as the House of Delegates did its own work on the bill. Here is earlier Conduit Street coverage of some of those components – which we won’t detail here unless they are being altered by the Senate version.

The Senate has HB 1300 on the floor for consideration on Saturday, March 14, likely with a final vote slated for the following day. Here are the issues newly added to the bill by the Senate, that flow through to county governments. And, one item that still is not in the bill, leaving counties concerned that mere accounting differences will loom as a frustrating consequence of this bill and its ambitious county funding mandates.

A Five Year “Check-In”

The Senate bill now has an evaluation part-way through the FY 2030 phase-in of the Kirwan plan – which has sparked controversy. From coverage on Maryland Matters:

The “checkpoint” provision included by the Senate panels requires the state to conduct a review before the 2026 fiscal year to determine whether there’s sufficient funding for the final five years of the reform plan, whether reforms are being implemented according to the plan and whether schools are achieving desired outcomes. If one of the items is not met, increased state funding per child would be limited to 2% in the 2026 fiscal year and local school systems would not be required to further implement the Blueprint reforms.

The actual provision in the bill is in an uncodified Section 16 of the bill, located on pages 227-228 of the latest Senate Reprint. The evaluation mechanism also affects the county obligations – the bill’s “what if” section on page 228 states:

Kirwan26WhatIf

The proposal has already drawn criticism from ardent bill supporters, and its fate ahead remains very unclear.

Teacher “Ladder” Changes, Earlier Raises and Pre-K

Among the many facets of the bill is a “career ladder” for classroom educators, with a variety of financial incentives at stake as they pursue various certifications. The Senate, in general, has advanced some of these monetary components of the bill, which presumably will have fiscal consequences for both the State and county funding values.

The segment of the bill detailing the “career ladder” begins on page 118 of the Senate reprint.

There are also timing differences in the roll-out of Pre-K funding, and services, that differ with the House-passed version, as well as an advance in the timing of the $60,000 teacher salary floor. All these components presumably are part of the foundation funding amount, being modestly altered in the amendments. A full fiscal assessment is required to fully connect all these components adequately.

The Senate amendments do carry some changes to the per-student foundation formula dollar amounts, and some (apparently offsetting?) alterations to various “at promise” funding programs (which are expressed as a multiple of the foundation amounts), but not formal update to the fiscal effects of the bill has yet been shared publicly.

The latest publicly available fiscal summary remains the document shared following the House’s set of amendments: Updated DLS Fiscal Charts

MACo does not anticipate dramatic changes to these figures, but has not been granted access to the data required to create independent projections of the policy changes being contemplated, despite multiple formal and informal requests for such information to be shared with all stakeholders.

Career Counseling – Now Placed With Workforce Development Boards

Another substantive operational change is that the bill locates career counseling services outside the local Board of Education budget, and instead with the local Workforce Development Board. These local boards are constructed differently across the state, but it appears that the flow of funding (where both the State and county fund the local board, who then in turn must provide $62 per student to its local Workforce Development Board) means they will find themselves dramatically expanding their services.

Logistical questions seem likely to arise – how the bill’s new provisions would affect regional organizations that serve these functions currently, and to what degree these school pass-through funds are eligible to be used to support overhead and operational/staffing costs of the local Workforce Development Boards.

What’s Not Here? Clarity on What County Funding “Counts” Toward Kirwan

Among the issues still perplexing county officials is whether the new law will recognize funds provided by the county to support education, but outside the local board’s actual budget, will be recognized as part of the county’s required funding levels. The issue comes down to an undefined term used below, on page 60 of the Senate reprint:

KirwanSenateRFEASPEP

question-mark-2110767_1920Is the term “revenue for elementary and secondary purposes” clear? Does it include the wave of school resource officers that counties have been funding in recent years, under a State mandate? Does it include nurses and public health professionals stationed in schools, but hired and managed by a county’s Local Health Department? What counts? And if this paragraph – basically the new law telling counties they are obligated to fund their local share of all the major aid programs under Kirwan – doesn’t say what’s in and what’s out… who will determine that?

The Formula Funding Workgroup convened to sort out questions like these too up this issue directly. Even when making their motion to accept the final report, they acknowledged:

…there are many moving parts as it relates to local contribution and what counts and what doesn’t count that that ultimate decision would have to be resolved in the legislation…

Yet, despite a clear recognition that this matter needed clarity and resolution, the matter remains untouched. The introduced bill did not clarify this, the House’s scores of amendments did not, and the Senate’s scorers of amendments did not. It is now left as a matter of open speculation what may, or may not, eventually pass muster as part of “revenue for elementary and secondary purposes.”


 

Notes on timing and context:

Our references herein to the “Senate Reprint” connect to the most orderly document available for such anchoring.

As of this writing (Saturday March 14), the Senate is pending its floor consideration of HB 1300.  For the bill to become enacted, the Senate must pass the bill on both second and third reading, and the House must either acceded to the Senate changes, or advance the bill to a conference committee to reconcile its provisions. Conduit Street will continue to monitor the bill’s progress, and any further changes or amendments, ahead.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties
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