The Fiscal Struggle
The recently released budget assessment study, titled “Fiscal Planning and New maintenance of Effort of law” by the Montgomery County Office of Legislative Oversight (a.k.a O.L.O), has sparked major discontentment within the Board Of Education. However, the controversy is a result of the slow buildup of friction that started back in 1984, when Maryland’s M.O.E (maintenance of effort) was first passed in the House of Representatives. M.O.E is a stature which mandates that in order to qualify for state funding, local governments must appropriate to public schools at constant per pupil funding. In a nutshell, M.O.E made sure that local funding wouldn’t decrease when state funding were increased.
In 2011, M.O.E was revised for a more comprehensive waiver process. In the Office of Legislative Oversight’s report, the O.L.O criticizes the Board of Education (the B.O.E) for funding teacher salary increases. However, the report was done with little almost no communication or cooperation with the Board of Education, resulting in a few facts heavily saturated with subjective statements. The council has used this report to attack the B.O.E’s use of funds and to avoid clear communication with the B.O.E. The council has also cited this ‘study’ in its response towards Superintendent Joshua Starr’s request for an additional 1% more of funding, a total of 2.2 billion dollars for next year. An additional 2.2 billion dollars would push Montgomery County’s educational spending to 10 million dollars over M.O.E. Seeing that any increase in funding results in a matching higher funding requirement for the next year, the council’s answer so far has been a firm—a most hostile “no”.
Council member’s Robert Berliner has been quoted in describing the current situation as “A strait jacket.”
Despite the highly controversial nature of the conflict, the standoff has escalated to the point where both sides are publishing comments in the press; Christopher Barclay of the Board of Education recently published an editorial in the Washington Post stating that the extra educational funding “has ensured an excellent return on the county’s investment.”
Many MCPS students support BOE’s position.
“I support the Board of Education; education is very important, additional funding in education would never be a bad thing.” says Richard Chen, a student in MCPS.
We will know more once the Board votes and makes edits to the Superintendents’ request before recommending that the edited budget be funded by the County Council.