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Monday, November 23, 2009

Maintenance of Effort: What's that all about?

If you guys are up-to-date on local news, you’ll know that there’s currently a storm brewing about this thing called Maintenance of Effort (MOE). A lot of people are angry and frustrated at the county and state level. Meanwhile, people are waiting for MCPS to continue on schedule with the Capital Improvements Plan (construction budget) and all their programs (The picture is from a recent hearing on Boundaries and Facilities), and you can't really blame them for wanting a better education.

So what is it? MOE is a state law designed to discourage local county governments from reducing their funding for public education. Every year, county governments have to spend at least the same amount per student on public education as they did the past year. This means that if there are more students, you’ll get extra money (inflation doesn’t count). In other words, if you spend $10,000 on each student in 2009, the county has to spend $10,000 (or more) on each student in 2010 or the county can lose a lot of money for education that comes from the state every year.

So what’s the big deal? Well, Montgomery County didn’t pass MOE this year. Basically, because of the economy, the county is getting less money. Since the County Government pays for MCPS’ budget, MCPS said, “Okay, just for this year, since the economy is so bad, we’ll take $79 Million below MOE” and the entire county government asked the State Board of Education to waive the MOE requirement this year.

But the State Board said “No”. What happened next was the county decided to charge the MCPS budget for $79 million in school construct debt – which the county usually pays. So it would be “added” back into MCPS’ budget. The Attorney General said this was not allowed and illegal because the law says that “program shifts between a county operating budget and a county school operating budget may not be used to artificially satisfy the requirements”.

Now, the county could lose between $16 Million and $64 Million in a penalty because the County Government failed to pay for MCPS. Wait, what? Yeah, so the law says that if the county doesn’t pay for education, the state won’t either. Weird, isn’t it? So we, as students, get less money from the State because the County paid less money.

While it’s true that the county council did pay over MOE in past years, so did all the other counties in Maryland. Montgomery is one of three counties in the entire state to not meet it this year. And this is actually the first time ever since the law was written that this has happened. MOE was expected to be the bare minimum for education.

So that’s where we are in terms of this issue. I can't really say what this means for the budget next year, but I'll tell you something: it's not good. Meanwhile, like the picture shows, people still want their programs and their school construction on time.

I could say a lot of things here, but I'll leave it to Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons:

For more information (MCEA, SEIU 500, MCAAP FAQ):


  1. Thanks! Great explanation. A question- does the MOE amount per student consist of BOTH operational and Construction budgets or just operational budget allocations?

  2. Hi Jerry,

    MOE consists only of the operational budget. The Construction budget is conducted through the CIP process - a separate budget funded by bonds.

    Hope that helps!


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