Student Screenings Are an Unfunded Mandate

MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu testified before the Senate Education and Health and Environmental Affairs Committee in opposition to Senate Bill 548 on February 21, 2018.

This bill would require local boards of education to conduct specific screenings to identify children with reading difficulties. Without any mechanism for state funding, this potentially costly mandate will be entirely placed on county boards of education. Several new standards and screenings would be established requiring training of employees that could take a substantial amount of time and resources.

From MACo Testimony:

Counties are concerned this legislation places a substantial administrative and cost burden onto local boards of education, whose operations are supported by county funding. Without state resources to offset these potentially large costs, the bill represents an unfunded mandate on local governments.

Local boards of education currently establish educational goals and objectives that conform with statewide educational objectives for subject areas including reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies. SB 548 requires local boards of education to implement prescriptive literacy screening standards, develop individualized reading intervention programs, and comply with onerous reporting requirements.

Furthermore, the process of training employees to administer and interpret literacy screenings, providing questionnaires and progress reports to parents or guardians, and preparing reports for the Maryland State Department of Education will take a substantial amount of time, which could divert resources from other efforts.

This bill would place a costly mandate on county governments to carry out new state policy.”

For more information, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

2018 School Funding Per Student County-by-County

Among the information contained in the Overview of Maryland Local Governments: Finance and Demographic Information is a chart of per-student funding in each Maryland county. The funding shows a range of funding for public education throughout Maryland on a per pupil basis.

Screenshot 2018-02-20 19.23.41

The funding comes primarily from county governments and the State, with limited funding from the federal government and other sources.

As described by the Department of Legislative Services,

Public schools in Maryland receive about $15,467 in total funding for each pupil in fiscal 2018. Worcester County has the highest per pupil revenues at $18,312, while Somerset County has the second highest at $17,945. Baltimore City has the third highest at $17,211. Talbot County has the lowest per pupil revenues at $13,414.

For more information, see the Overview of Maryland Local Governments: Finance and Demographic Information.

Community College Collective Bargaining: Counties Need a Seat at the Table

A universal approach to collective bargaining at community colleges would create considerable costs for counties that provide a significant amount of funding to community colleges. House Bill 667 would apply a one-size-fits-all approach that limits local decision making and excludes counties from collective bargaining negotiations. This tactic could also result in an increase in tuition rates and could upend already established collective bargaining agreements at certain community colleges throughout the State.

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally testified in opposition to HB 667 seeking to address these concerns. From MACo Testimony:

Current state laws include distinct collective bargaining processes for community colleges in several jurisdictions. Several colleges already have some locally-authorized collective bargaining. This bill allows for collective bargaining contracts at those colleges to continue only until they expire. After that point, the existing systems must be repealed and substituted for the far more detailed and restrictive collective bargaining process required by HB 667.

As partners in the network of community colleges serving the states’ residents, county governments reserve the ability to have input into potentially costly shifts in community college administration.”


State to Poorest Counties: Pony Up

Ten counties are required to escalate their education spending beyond what they provided in years past based on a formula set in state law since 2012. Seven of the counties caught in the mandate also have the lowest wealth per pupil in the State. 

The Maryland State Department of Education has released draft calculations for State education aid for FY 2019. The figures could change based on legislation passed by the General Assembly this legislative session.

The draft calculations show that multiple counties are again caught in a relatively new provision of law called the maintenance of effort escalator. Nine counties were in the same position last year.

This year, Dorchester and Somerset counties will be required to increase their education budgets. Last year they did not have to because their local wealth per pupil was decreasing.

Counties required to permanently increase their per-pupil payments are those that fall below a statewide moving average of education contributions as compared with local wealth. From year-to-year, some of the state’s least wealthy counties have fallen into this category.

Here is a ranking by the Department of Legislative Services of the counties in Maryland with the least wealth per student. The seven lowest ranking counties are also caught in the escalator formula this year.

Screenshot 2018-02-20 12.02.11

As shown in the chart below, 10 counties will be required to increase their education pending by the amount of the increase in their wealth per pupil (WPP), up to a maximum of 1.5%. Those counties where wealth per pupil is falling are not required to increase their payments this year, though they may be required to do so next year if their local wealth per pupil increases.

Screenshot 2018-02-20 12.30.20

For more background, see 9 Counties Swept Up In Education Funding Escalator and Q&A: Maryland’s Education Funding Escalator

School Report Done, Legislation to Come

The first major statewide commission on school construction funding in more than a decade has completed its final report and leadership in the General Assembly comment that the bill will be introduced this year.

The 21st Century School Facilities Commission, also called the “Knott Commission” after the Commission’s Chair Martin Knott, wrapped up its work after a year-long extension this past fall in Annapolis. The Commission’s final report has now been released.

As described by Chair Knott, the Report includes many recommendations that can be translated into legislation. Knott writes,

The report submitted to you today includes 36 recommendations that, together, address each of the eight tasks with which we were charged. They include a number of steps that can be accomplished administratively by State agencies and local school systems, but others will require legislative action and/or funding commitments.

Legislation that incorporates the Report’s recommendations will be introduced this year for consideration by the State’s legislators in the General Assembly. In a bill hearing last week on a separate piece of school construction legislation, Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee shared that the Knott bill would be in her Committee.

Many of the recommendations in the Knott Commission Final Report echo positions in line with MACo’s school construction advocacy over the past few years. Areas of overlap with MACo’s advocacy include:

  • strong state funding for school construction,
  • regulatory review flexibility,
  • square-footage allowances,
  • alternative financing options,
  • cooperative purchasing methods, and
  • eligible costs updates.

A couple of specific recommendations on removing emergency shelter and LEED-silver requirements match MACo’s past positions, too.

The bill also includes a minority statement from Senator Serafini and Delegate Ghrist that recommends that only projects receiving 50% or more of their funding are submitted to the State’s prevailing wage law. This has been a MACo’s position since the threshold was changed from 50% to 25% of State funding.

For more information, read the 21st Century School Facilities Commission Final Report

Conduit Street Podcast: County Collaboration on Tax Reform, Lockbox Redux, Employer Mandates, and Bad Docs

The MACo Legislative Committee formally adopted a statement this week to express its views on broad-based tax reform proposals pending before the General Assembly, designed to react (in various ways) to the recently enacted federal tax reforms. Absent state action, some Maryland taxpayers would see an increase in their state and county tax liability — the potential means to offset these changes sit before the legislature in multiple variations of changes to deductions, exemptions, rates, and brackets — each with distinct distributional effects.

Governor Larry Hogan this week announced a “lockbox” proposal to ensure that taxes on casino revenues set aside for education are used to supplement, not supplant state funding for public schools. Last month, legislature leadership announced a plan to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The ballot question would ask voters to approve of putting a “lockbox” on casino money (around $500M per year), requiring it to be used for education above the amount set by state formulas. The Governor’s proposal would not require a referendum, it would be done through statute.

The House Economic Matters Committee voted down SB 304, Maryland Healthy Working Families Act – Enforcement – Delayed Implementation, which would have delayed implementation of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act until July 1. The vote was 12-11. The focus now turns to a new wave of employer mandate proposals.

A proposal to strengthen Maryland’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is likely to spur a debate over who should have access to the database and under what circumstances. As heroin and opioid deaths continue to skyrocket in Maryland, County Health Officers could play a vital role in sharing vital information and best practices with identified prescribers, and increase awareness and improve intervention efforts in cases of patients who may be doctor shopping.

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Michael Sanderson break down MACo’s position on broad-based tax reform proposals, discuss the competing education “lockbox” initiatives, examine employer mandate proposals, preview the looming debate on Maryland’s PDMP, and more!

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

Listen here:

If you are having trouble using this media player, listen on our website.

Hogan Announces Plan for Casino Revenue “Lockbox” to Boost Education Funding

Governor Larry Hogan, flanked by Comptroller Peter Franchot and Secretary of Budget & Management David Brinkley, today announced the “Commitment to Education Act of 2018,” a proposal to ensure that taxes on casino revenues set aside for education are used to supplement, not supplant state funding for public schools. According to Governor Hogan, his plan will add $1 billion in school construction funding and $3.4 billion in operating funding for public schools over the next ten years.

Last month, legislature leadership announced a plan to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The ballot question would ask voters to approve of putting a “lockbox” on casino money (around $500M per year), requiring it to be used for education above the amount set by state formulas. The Governor’s proposal would not require a referendum, it would be done through statute.

According to Governor Hogan, his legislation would phase-in casino revenues to a special fund (the “lockbox”) over the next four years. The first 20% percent would be used for school construction projects (around $100 million next year) and the rest would be used to supplement operating budgets.

The Administration is expected to provide more details on the proposal in the coming days.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Community College Affordability Possible with State Funds

Legislation to require the State to fully fund community colleges under the Cade formula  would increase the State share of per-pupil funding to 29% of that appropriated to 4-year public institutions of higher education in the State. MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally testified in support of House Bill 516 before the House Appropriations Committee on February 13, 2018.

The increases in state aid to community colleges would continue gradually through 2022 in this bill with an accelerated phase-in. It allows for counties and community colleges to manage costs and provide more Marylanders with access to opportunities in higher education through low-cost education and job training.

From MACo Testimony:

When state funding for community colleges lags, additional pressure builds on county budgets and on student tuition. When county budgets face distress from the economic climate or state actions, the local contributions cannot reliably offset these cutbacks. For the past several years, this combined dynamic has led to increased tuition costs for Maryland community college students, at a time when the training and education opportunities are arguably most needed.

HB 516 would increase the Cade formula, signaling a new commitment to community colleges on behalf of the State.”

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.

Facility (Not Grant) Management

Public School Construction Program Director Bob Gorrell shares his outlook and vision with MACo’s Legislative Committee.


Maryland’s Public School Construction Program Director Bob Gorrell has been on the job for more than a few months now, but his perspective on school construction continues to bring a fresh focus to the State’s largest capital program.

“$1 for school construction spent in the ’70s would be roughly equivalent to $13 today.” – Bob Gorrell, Director, Maryland Public School Construction Program, on construction cost escalation

Gorrell recently addressed MACo’s Legislative Committee, sharing insights from what he has learned about Maryland’s school construction program and facility needs, and his ideas for where the program needs to go.

Screenshot 2018-02-09 09.27.36
The average age of Maryland schools is increasing in most school districts.

Topics of the discussion included:

  • Performing a statewide school facilities assessment
  • Developing baseline sufficiency standards for schools
  • Increasing costs of construction
  • Creating accountability and incentives for maintenance

Referencing the work of the Public School Construction Program in the past, and the direction he would like to go, Gorrell said that he would like to move the focus of the Department from grants management to facilities management.

More information about the Public School Construction Program.

Counties Support Expanding Tech Internship Programs

MACo Policy Associate Kevin Kinnally testified before the House Appropriations Committee in support of HB 527, “Higher Education – Maryland Technology Internship Program – Alterations,” on February 8, 2018. The bill enables counties to participate in the Maryland Technology Internship program.

Currently, the Maryland Technology Internship Program connects college and university students, recent graduates, and veterans with small innovative businesses in the high-growth technology sector through internships. The Program incentivizes businesses to participate by offering a stipend of up to 50% for each paid intern. HB 527 would expand the current Program by authorizing the State and local governments to participate in the same way as technology-based businesses.

From the MACo testimony:

Counties are invested in having strong and vibrant economies. A robust, well-trained, and educated workforce encourages businesses to locate to and grow in Maryland. This bill helps encourage high-achieving students at Maryland institutions of higher education to remain in the state after graduation.

The bill properly leaves the decision for establishing a program in the hands of local governments, who are best situated to determine whether a program is in their best interest. If a program is established, it requires both the county and the State to split the costs for paid interns, disbursing financial burdens and ensuring that the State is equally invested in the advancement of its students and workforce.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.