Friday, August 28, 2009

The Economic Engine of Maryland, Part Eight

This series has easily been the most ambitious collection of essays we have ever attempted on Maryland Politics Watch. And all of our data points to one conclusion: the economic fate of Maryland depends on Montgomery County. And the economic competitiveness of Montgomery County depends on the quality of its public schools. That has to be a central priority for state policymakers in writing future budgets.

Consider the following facts:

In Part Two, we learned that Montgomery County accounts for one-fifth of the state’s employment and tax receipts, one-fourth of its personal income and one-third of its business profit. That last factor is especially important because business profit is necessary for job creation.

In Part Three, we learned that Montgomery County has trailed its chief competitor, Fairfax County, on every important economic growth measure over the last 25 years.

In Part Four, we learned that Montgomery County has higher tax rates in nearly all major categories except property than Fairfax.

In Part Five, we examined the close degree of competitiveness between Montgomery’s and Fairfax’s public schools.

In Part Six, our commentators agreed that the quality of the schools is necessary for attracting residents and jobs to Montgomery.

In Part Seven, we learned that the state’s aid to MCPS ranks third from the bottom among Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions in per pupil terms. Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) spending, which benefits Montgomery, is a tiny part of the total aid budget. The state’s coverage of teacher pension obligations is the one large investment that disproportionately helps Montgomery.

All of these factors are linked. Montgomery’s economic competitiveness, which is critical to the well-being of the entire state, is dependent on its public schools. If the General Assembly considers cuts in aid and teacher pension funding that have disparate impacts on Montgomery next year, they are not just damaging one county. They are damaging the Economic Engine of Maryland. And if that engine breaks down, every resident of the Free State is going to suffer in the long run.

Lords of Annapolis, beware.