County Leaders to Focus on School Funding at #MACoCon Roundtable Discussions

The next round of school funding debates is “on the table” for a roundtable discussion at this year’s annual MACo Winter Conference. Attend this session to hear updates and provide input on potential recommendations being considered by the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.

The Next Round of School Funding Debates

Description: Join MACo’s representatives from the Commission on Innovation and Excellence Education to hear an update on the latest round of school funding debates in Maryland. The Commission, charged with reviewing and assessing current education financing formulas and accountability measures, is set to make its final recommendations later this month. This roundtable discussion will provide elected officials with insight into any potential recommendations, which are likely to affect all of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions.


  • The Honorable Craig Rice, County Council Member, Montgomery County
  • The Honorable William Valentine, County Commissioner, Allegany County

Moderator: Michael Sanderson, Executive Director, Maryland Association of Counties

Date/Time: Wednesday, December 6, 2017; Noon – 1:00 pm

The MACo Winter Conference will be held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “The Power of Partnership.”

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference:

Finance Committee Holds Briefing On Controversial Collective Bargaining Bill

A panel of representing several Maryland community colleges voiced their objections over proposed legislation that would mandate a one-size-fits-all form of collective bargaining during a briefing held by the Senate Finance Committee. The briefing focused on failed legislation (SB 652/HB 871) from the 2017 General Assembly Session.

At the briefing, MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally explained that the move to collective bargaining outlined in this bill could create potentially unsustainable costs for counties, who provide substantial funding for community colleges throughout Maryland – especially since the legislation does not envision any added State support. Bernie Sadusky, Executive Director, Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC) told the Committee that the State has not been living up to its funding obligations, and that the added costs of collective bargaining would fall on counties and/or students, in the form of higher tuition rates.

State Senator Stephen Hershey expressed frustration with the proposal, telling fellow Committee Members that his constituent counties would be unable to afford the added costs resulting from mandated collective bargaining. Senator Hershey also addressed the lack of State funding for community colleges, he asked:

How can we pass a bill when we have no idea how to pay for it?

MACo opposed the 2017 legislation.

Representatives from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Maryland/DC American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO), and Communication Workers of America (CWA) testified in support of the legislation.

Useful Links

HB 871/SB 652 of 2017

Previous Conduit Street Coverage

State Can Step Back From School Construction Reviews, Says Subcommittee

The Process Process, Procedure, and Educational Specifications Subcommittee discussed recommendations to the Knott Commission regarding areas where the state’s process can be scaled back to streamline school construction in Maryland.

At today’s meeting of the process subcommittee of the Knott Commission on 21st Century School Facilities, the subcommittee discussed and voted on several recommendations to reduce the state’s role in school construction reviews. These recommendations are aimed a reducing duplicative reviews by different branches of state government, and to expedite the school construction process.

MACo advocates for streamlining school construction processes. County governments share responsibility for financing K-12 school construction with the State, whose funding depends on statutory formulas and regulations. MACo advocates efforts to promote the smartest and most effective funding for modern schools, and urges State policymakers to retain the State’s strong commitment to this top funding priority.

In the presentation of the possible areas for recommendations, Alex Szachnowicz, Chief Operating Officer Anne Arundel County School System asked the Commissioners to consider whether the current processes are adding value to the school construction program.

“A truism in the construction field is the old adage, ‘time is money.’ ” –Alex Szachnowicz, Chief Operating Officer Anne Arundel County School System

On the following areas of potential consensus, the Subcommittee made the following votes:

  • Should we keep Department of General Services (DGS) review for design development for systemic updates (such as replacing a failing boiler in an existing school)?
  • Should we keep DGS review for design development for major construction projects? For these projects, design development is currently reviewed by the Maryland State Department of Education first, then they move to DGS. Design development plans represent about 50-60% of the design for a project.
  • Should we keep DGS review for construction documents for systemics? The construction documents represent 100% of the design for a project.
  • Should we keep DGS  review for construction documents for major projects?
  • Should we keep DGS review for change orders for systemics?
  • Should we keep DGS review for change orders for major projects?

Additional areas for potential change were discussed by the subcommittee, and in some cases the subcommittee decided to ask for additional information from the state government before voting.

On November 14th, the subcommittee will present its recommendations to the full Knott Commission.

Documents may be posted on the Knott Commission webpage following the meeting.

School Bus Stop Arm Violations Down From Last Year

A new Maryland Department of Education-sponsored survey shows that Maryland motorists are paying more attention to school bus stop arms.

According to a press release:

Stop arms swing out from a bus and lights flash whenever it is making an on-roadway student pick-up. A total of 3,384 violations of school bus stop arms were recorded on a single day last spring. That represents nearly a 1,000 violation decrease compared to the number recorded in 2016 and well below the 7,011 recorded when the survey began in 2011.

Governor Larry Hogan issued a proclamation declaring School Bus Safety week from October 16-20. The new survey results are being released as that observance is about to begin.

MSDE coordinated the survey in April along with school transportation directors in all 24 school systems. It is considered a snapshot of illegal activity on the roads. Eighty percent of Maryland school bus drivers took part in the survey.

School systems, bus drivers, and law enforcement have been raising awareness about stop arm violations for the past seven years.

Large systems with more buses and bus routes noted the most violators. Baltimore County tallied the most – 767, followed closely by 661 witnessed by Montgomery County school bus drivers. Both systems found significant decreases in comparison to last year.

The MSDE survey this past spring was undertaken at the behest of a number of members of the Maryland General Assembly, which has been monitoring school bus safety. The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services is coordinating surveys of this type in all 50 States.

Read the full press release for more information.

Conduit Street Podcast, Episode #3 – Education Funding In Maryland

The first major review of education funding in more than ten years is nearing completion. The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission.

Many of the Thornton Commission’s recommendations were incorporated into the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act of 2002, a plan intended to increase statewide education funding by $1.1 billion over five years.

One element of the Bridge to Excellence Act was a second review of the State’s education funding. The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education is that second review.

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson discuss education funding in Maryland.

MACo has made the podcast is available through iTunes by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

Listen here:

Kirwan Commission Stays True To Form

The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its most recent meeting today in Annapolis. Known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, the Commission is charged with reviewing and assessing current education financing formulas and accountability measures.

It was widely anticipated that today’s meeting would focus on education funding, especially because some Commissioners recently expressed concerns over how little time has been spent analyzing proposed funding changes. Instead, staying true to form, the Commission spent the day listening to testimony on broad policy initiatives.

Robert Slavin, Director, Center for Research and Reform in Education, Johns Hopkins University, testified on the importance of intensive, individual programs, such as one-on-one tutoring, for students struggling to achieve proficiency standards. While the Commission seemed to agree on a philosophical level, some Commissioners said the approach was cost prohibitive.

Career and technical education (CTE) continued to be a hot topic of discussion. Commissioners agreed that Maryland’s CTE standard is less rigorous than the standard in top performing systems.

In addition to providing more rigorous CTE programs, the Commission recommends that Maryland implement a communication plan to dispel the notion that CTE programs are only meant for students who do not excel in traditional academic subjects. This communication plan will also inform students and parents that enrolling in a CTE program in no way precludes the ability to attend college.

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, representing MACo on the Commission, praised efforts to expand CTE programs in Maryland. According to Councilmember Rice:

CTE programs have been very successful in counties, and with a small state investment, these programs can continue to grow. Expanding CTE should rise to the top of our recommendations. A lot of the the recommendations we’re talking about are very expensive, this one isn’t. It’s a no brainer.

Delegate Maggie McIntosh, representing the Maryland House of Delegates on the Commission, expressed frustration with the lack of input from the business community on how to best expand CTE programs, she stated:

The business community worked side by side with the Thornton Commission, but now no one is here on behalf of the business community. We need a renewed dialouge with the business community.

The Commission also heard panel testimony from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE), the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland (PSSAM), and the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), among others.

MABE’s presentation included an emphasis on the importance of local boards of education having authority over local education spending. MSEA outlined their top three priorities:

  1. Increased salaries for teachers.
  2. Increased staffing for schools.
  3. Addressing poverty

The Commission’s next meeting will focus on the analysis from Augenblick, Palaich & Associates (APA) and the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). Dr. Kirwan has asked representatives from APA and NCEE to attend the meeting to discuss the methodology for costing out their proposed recommendations.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission. MACo is entitled to two representatives on the Commission, under the legislation.

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Chair, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Vice Chair, represent MACo on the Commission.

The Commission’s next meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 25, 2017; 9:30 am-5:00 pm, at 120 House Office Building (House Appropriations Committee Room), 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.

Click here to view today’s meeting materials.

For more information, contact Kevin Kinnally at MACo.

Is the Kirwan Commission the Best Kept Secret in Maryland?

At a panel discussion at the Maryland Association of Boards of Education Conference, Commissioners on the statewide education policy group reveal process, timing, and outreach concerns.

The Maryland Association of Boards of Education Conference last week offered an educational workshop on the Kirwan Commission titled, “What You Need to Know About the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.”

According to the comments of the panelists and the audience, the session was aptly named.

Panelists at the Maryland Association of Boards of Education meeting share concerns regarding opportunities for input by Commissioners and the public into the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.

The speakers, who are all Kirwan Commission members, shared detailed information and insight into the broad-reaching potential consequences of the Commission’s work. These include:

  • Expanding pre-K offerings to provide universal pre-K to all 4-year-olds in Maryland, and also to some 3-year-olds
  • Changing the way that we determine children in poverty, using measures other than the free and reduced price meal index
  • Altering certifications for teachers and developing a new career track for the teaching profession

At the same time, the speakers revealed how little consideration, assessment, and input has been provided over the past year on recommendations that are now due, according to the Commission’s current schedule, in less than three months.


  • Much time during the Commission’s public meetings has been spent hearing testimony regarding foreign educational systems of questionable relevance to Maryland’s public schools. For example, panelists point out that testimony on schools in Singapore and Finland provides limited insight. Maryland schools that exists in a society with different social services, and certain expectations for serving a range of special needs students as compared with foreign institutions.
  • According to the panel, very little time or attention of the Commission has been spent on its primary charge: “to review and assess current education financing formulas and accountability measures, and how each local school system is spending its funds” and “review the Study on Adequacy of Funding for Education in the State of Maryland.”


  • No draft recommendations on funding have been formulated, and the Commission’s end-date of December 31st. Keeping to this schedule will provide little opportunity for Commissioners to comment on recommendations to change or update education funding models.


  • The Commission is in the process of conducting public hearings throughout the State. However, without any draft recommendations specific to funding questions, the public hearings provide little opportunity for input, suggestions, or criticism on the central charge of the Commission.

Montgomery County Council Craig Rice is MACo’s Education Committee Chair and represented MACo on the panel. Commissioner Rice recounted how he’s heard the Commission called, “the best kept secret in Maryland.”

Carroll County Superintendent Stephen Guthrie is the president of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland and represents superintendents on the Kirwan Commission.

With regard to the Kirwan Commission, he stated,


Based on the pace that the Commission is working and the lack of analysis of the APA [consultant’s funding] recommendations so far, the Commission will not be ready to make a recommendation this December.

Montgomery County Council Member Craig Rice speaks with members of the audience following the session about procedural questions regarding the Kirwan Commission.

The Kirwan Commission’s meeting today in Annapolis did not focus on funding, either, begging the question of whether the Commission will in fact delay it’s completion deadline and continue work through 2018. Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more coverage of today’s meeting.

Gain Easier Access to Local Finance, State Aid Reports on New Website

The Department of Legislative Services has re-designed its webpages, providing a more direct route to legislative, budgetary, and other statewide reports.

Screenshot 2017-10-12 12.03.58.png

The Department of Legislative Services develops a number of annual reports on local finances, demographics, and state aid to local governmental entities. The reports may be found through the General Assembly’s webpage, but the Department’s new website now provides a simpler route to them.

Check out the Department of Legislative Service’s Publications page.

Reports provided include 2017 fiscal year information on:

2018 fiscal year information will be released toward the start of the General Assembly Session in December 2017 and January 2018.



Prince George’s Program Offers Bachelor’s Degree For $10K Or Less

Through a groundbreaking partnership, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) and University of Maryland University College (UMUC) are offering an affordable pathway to a bachelor’s degree for students in Prince George’sCounty, beginning with dual enrollment in high school. The 3D Scholars Program allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree for $10,000 or less.

According to a press release:

Scholarships allow eligible Prince George’s County public school students to earn dual credit at Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) and ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree from University of Maryland University College (UMUC) for $10,000 or less. For some students, the degree could be free.

We are so appreciative of the help of our higher education partners,” said PGCPS Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell. “This innovative partnership will remove financial barriers and increase access to college and career preparation for more deserving students in Prince George’s County public schools.”

“This is a model of how higher education can be sustained and made affordable to all Maryland students. We are delighted to see such talented students taking advantage of the 3D Scholarship Program,” said President Charlene Dukes of Prince George’s Community College.

“The Prince George’s 3D Scholarship Program will provide students with an exceptional opportunity to complete high school diplomas, associate degrees, and baccalaureate degrees for a maximum cost of $10,000, right here in Prince George’s County. Prince George’s Community College is excited to be a part of a bold partnership with Prince George’s County Public Schools and University of Maryland University College. Students in the Prince George’s 3D Scholarship Program will begin an academic pathway that produces well-educated graduates, addresses college affordability, and supports a regional workforce. This program responds to the needs of our community, and we are proud to support such a unique opportunity.”

To qualify for the 3D Scholars program, students must be in the 11th grade, take a college placement test, write an essay, and have at least a 2.5 cumulative grade point average.

Read the full press release for more information.

Suit Challenges County “Tax Cap” Override, State’s Authority

Taxpayers in Prince George’s County are suing, arguing that a 2015 tax rate increase adopted under state-passed provisions violates a citizen-enacted charter limitation. The lawsuit has advanced through preliminary motions, and will be heard in Circuit Court in December. The litigants seek to place the 2015 measure onto the ballot in 2018, for approval by county voters.

From coverage on the WTOP website:

The county is confident the courts will find it acted lawfully, a county spokesman said.

“The property tax increase that was implemented and voted on by the Prince George’s County Council was done in accordance to state law, which allows for property tax increases in jurisdictions that have tax caps, as long as it is restricted to funding education,” said Scott Peterson, spokesman for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

The central argument in the case, apparently, will be the state’s authority to legislate a provision that overrides elements of a county charter. Four counties currently have rigid tax limitations in their charters, but 2012 legislation authorized counties to exceed those limits if they did so to support public education. The Attorney General opined soon after that bill’s passage that the provision was legal.