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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ike Leggett - MCPS Will Pay Fine Instead of Meeting MOE

In the below article, County Executive Ike Leggett tells the Washington Examiner that the county will not fully fund the school system, and that MCPS will ultimately have to pay a penalty for being unable to meet  Maintenance of Effort for yet another consecutive year. 

Although other branches of county government are suffering enormous cuts as well, Maintenance of Effort is the law and must be met in order to ensure a world class quality of education for our students, especially because of enrollment increases.

For context, Maintenance of Effort is a state law that requires the County Council, MCPS' funding body, to spend as much money per student as it did the previous year. However, last year we were granted a Maintenance of Effort waiver from the state.

This means that this year's Maintenance of Effort requirement is at FY 2010's level of $10,664 per student. Unfortunately, this also means that we are unlikely to be granted a waiver like last year, leaving us with a penalty in the form of loss of state aid.

MontCo will pay state fine instead of increasing school spending
By: Brian Hughes

Montgomery County will not spend an extra $82 million on public schools next fiscal year, County Executive Ike Leggett told The Washington Examiner, citing the suburb's chronic funding shortfalls as the need to buck state requirements.

"It's just not practical for us to fill that request," Leggett said of Superintendent Jerry Weast's call for tens of millions of dollars more in county funding. "We'd either have to raise taxes or tap department budgets that have already been hit hard the last two or three years. I'm not going to do that."

Under state law, local jurisdictions are required to pay the same amount per student as the year before. But facing a $300 million shortfall -- on the heels of filling a $1 billion budget gap -- Leggett and County Council members say they would rather take a hit in state funding than raid department budgets.

The county would miss out on $33 million in state aid by not meeting the standard, ultimately saving $50 million at a minimum compared with Weast's proposal.

For years, county officials pumped millions of dollars more than required into the schools and built one of the nation's top-achieving public education systems. The county was granted a waiver for not meeting the so-called maintenance of effort this fiscal year, but officials say they will not receive a free pass again.

Leggett's announcement on Tuesday was met with disappointment from school board members, who have routinely battled with the council over funding that accounts for 57 percent of all taxpayer dollars spent in the county.

"With an increase in students and an increase in needs, not having an increase in dollars makes it very difficult to maintain the quality of education for our children," said School Board President Christopher Barclay.

Weast's $2.16 billion budget proposal included spending for an expected 3,340 more students next year and roughly 154 more teachers. It also recommended step increases -- a 3 percent annual raise, on average -- that would have cost $15 million.

By not meeting the Maryland standard, Leggett would be free to slash the schools' budget from prior levels. He will present his budget to the council in March.

Multiple council members Tuesday endorsed Leggett's decision.

"I agree with him," said Councilman George Leventhal, D-at large. "We cannot starve the rest of county government. Unfortunately, the school system is going to have to find substantial savings."

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