Tuesday, May 11, 2010

School Board Authorizes Lawsuit Against County

MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast asked for and received authorization from the Board of Education to sue the county if the County Council cuts the system's budget below the level proposed by the County Executive. The Post reports that the authorization was unanimous. Following is the text of the resolution approved by the board.

Office of the Superintendent of Schools
Montgomery County Public Schools
Rockville, Maryland
May 11, 2010


To: Members of the Board of Education

From: Jerry D. Weast, Superintendent of Schools

Subject: Authorization for Legal Action Related to the Board of Educations’ FY 2011 Operating Budget

WHEREAS, In the last two fiscal years, the school system’s budget has been reduced and savings totaling $223,000,000 made available to the County through hiring freezes, expenditure restrictions, cuts in existing services, and the agreement of our 22,000 employees to forego any cost-of-living salary adjustment; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Education and the superintendent of schools worked cooperatively with the Montgomery County Executive to balance the needs of the school system, its 22,000 employees and its 142,000 students with the fiscal realities facing local government; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Education and the superintendent of schools, for the second year in a row, are supporting and joining with the County Council and the County Executive to seek a waiver of the County’s obligation to fund so-called “maintenance of effort” from the Maryland State Board of Education; and

WHEREAS, The requested waiver effectively would reduce the school system’s budget by an additional $137,700,000 and subject the school system to a decrease in state education funding of up to $51,300,000, if the waiver is not granted; and

WHEREAS, Further reductions by the Council to the school system’s budget below that recommended by the County Executive will most certainly trigger a penalty of up to $51,300,000 in state aid even if the State Board of Education approves the County’s request for a waiver of maintenance of effort; and

WHEREAS, These significant reductions in the school system’s budget come at a time when the school system’s enrollment increased by approximately 4,000 students over the past two years, including a 10 percent increase in the number of students receiving Free and Reduced-price Meals System services in just one year, so that nearly one-third of elementary school students are eligible to receive subsidized meals; and

WHEREAS, An additional reduction of at least $30,000,000 proposed by some members of the County Council will threaten the education reforms that have resulted in record student achievement and could lead to a significant dismantling of the school system’s programs in this County; and

WHEREAS, Additional reductions of at least $30,000,000 combined with a potential state penalty of $51,300,000 will be very difficult, if not impossible, to implement before the opening of school, and

WHEREAS, The students and families rely on the school system to provide nutrition, often not available elsewhere, and an education that is closing the gap and providing students with the ability to enter college and to enter careers to become productive citizens and taxpayers; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Education has a fiduciary duty to provide the education our students require to secure their futures and a statutory duty, pursuant to Section 4-101 of the Education Article, to promote the interests of the schools under our jurisdiction; and

WHEREAS, The County Council is without legal authority to reduce the school system’s budget beyond reductions made by the County Executive when the level of funding he proposes is below the level required by state law to maintain the effort; now therefore be it

RESOLVED, That legal counsel representing the Board of Education and the school system are hereby authorized to take any and all appropriate legal action to prevent the County Council from exceeding its authority by making any further reductions in the County Executive’s recommendation for the FY 2011 Operating Budget for Montgomery County Public Schools.