Friday, May 15, 2009

Leggett and Andrews Slam State Board of Education

You better hide the kids and shield your eyes before reading this press release, folks!

Statement by County Executive Isiah Leggett and County Council President Phil Andrews on the Decision of the State Board of Education on the County’s Maintenance of Effort Waiver

“The last-minute decision by the Maryland State Board of Education to deny Montgomery County a one-time waiver of the Maintenance of Effort funding requirement is totally unjustified.

“This is a classic example of state bureaucrats second-guessing an agreement reached on the local level by Montgomery County and the Montgomery County Public Schools to fully fund County school programs.

“This waiver request was fully supported by the Montgomery County Board of Education – those in closest touch with the needs of County schoolchildren and their families.

“Given the County’s long history of unparalleled local funding for our public schools and the strong case Montgomery County has made for the existing fiscal difficulties, it is difficult to understand how any waiver for any jurisdiction at any time could ever be approved by this State Board of Education.

“This decision actually harms school kids and the Montgomery community as a whole. It potentially forces even further cuts in critical services such as public safety, positive youth programs, libraries, and help to the most vulnerable County residents – or reductions in public school spending.

“During the past decade, MCPS enrollment has risen by 5.4 percent while our local contribution to the schools increased 75 percent. Montgomery County has gone far above and beyond what is required by the State of Maryland in funding our schools with local dollars from local taxpayers. For the past two years, even with fiscal challenges, we have significantly reduced both the overall capital and operating budgets to ensure that our schools had the resources necessary. For example, last year, the County raised property taxes by $130 million, again, in part to help fund our public schools.

“Only the severity of the economic downturn and the dire consequences for the County’s overall budget caused us to request a waiver this year. Despite these challenging conditions, we still funded 99 percent of our school system’s request.

“Montgomery County requested this waiver in order to continue to support our world-class school system while, at the same time, sustain critical programs in public safety, help for the most vulnerable County residents, and other important initiatives in the County budget that support our children and youth.

“As a result of this unwarranted decision by the State Board of Education, we will work together on a plan to resolve this unacceptable denial in a manner which we believe will be in the best interests of the County and its taxpayers.”

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Contact: Patrick Lacefield 301-919-9372, 240-777-6528