The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s work in the area of education policy in the 2020 General Assembly.
Counties support education as the largest component of their budgets, with operating and capital support for schools typically representing a larger share of a county budget than all other function combined. Statutory formulas drive most state-level funding – meaning constant attention to the state-county balance inf funding responsibilities. Costly mandates on school functions can, effectively, land on county budgets unless state resources are provided. MACo typically advocates for fair and accountable school funding, and opposes unfunded new requirements.
This year, for the first time since the Civil War, the General Assembly closed session early on March 18, due to precautionary social distancing measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. Consequently, many bills did not have hearings or did not move forward due to time constraints to meet the new deadline. For more information on Maryland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic visit MACo’s COVID-19 Resource Page.
Lifelong Library Learners
MACo supported legislation that boosts State funding for county library capital projects, accelerates increases to the library funding formula, and encourages minors to continue to utilize their public libraries by eliminating fines on children’s library accounts for overdue library materials. The legislation passed both chambers with minor amendments and has been sent to the governor for his signature.
Zero Vehicle School Bus Purchasing
MACo opposed legislation that aimed to require local boards of education to purchase only zero-emission school buses, as well as limit contracting with transportation services for school buses to contractors that have purchased zero-emission school buses, beginning in 2026. Counties opposed the stringent and inflexible mandate on schools that would increase required spending by hundreds of thousands of dollars, even in Maryland’s smaller counties. School Bus Purchasing – Zero-Emission Vehicle – Requirement did not advance out of the House Environment and Transportation committee following its public hearing.
Community College Funding Revision
MACo supported legislation that would clarify and strengthen the funding connection between four-year and two-year schools by requiring non-capital appropriations to be included in the annual calculation of community college aid under the State’s Senator John A. Cade Funding Formula. The sensible clarifications on appropriation calculations would potentially prevent the need for tuition increases due to budget cutbacks and thus encourage greater attendance. Unfortunately, Community Colleges – State Funding – Revision did not move out of committee in either chamber following the public hearings.
Collective Bargaining for Community Colleges
MACo members voted to oppose legislation that sought to establish collective bargaining rights for community college employees, leading to increases in county expenditures. The bill did not have a hearing before the end of session.
Special Education Video Recording in Public Schools
MACo stood against legislation that would have placed a costly mandate on school systems and county governments to install video recording devices in every special education classroom in every public school in the State. Although well-intentioned, the effect of the bill would not only divert funds from Kirwan Blueprint priorities, but also have uncertain administrative and legal implications for local schools to tackle. The bill did not make it out of the House committee following its public hearing.
Expansive School Health Legislation
MACo opposed legislation that would require local boards of education and local health departments to substantially expand student vision screenings using limited local funding with not support from the State. Counties already provide student vision screenings to test for myopia, color vision, and depth perception. Local health departments indicated that costs would increase by millions of dollars annually to provide expanded services. The bill did not make it out of the House committee following its public hearing.
MACo opposed legislation that would allow the Maryland Department of Health to shift the jurisdiction for school health care services from county boards of education to local health departments. Many county health departments are not responsible for providing any school health services, and a state mandate would not account for all the lost funding that schools could not transfer to health departments to handle the extra delivery and administrative burdens. Public Schools – Health Services – County Boards of Education and Health Departments did not advance in the House committee following its public hearing.