Robert Moton Elementary School's cafeteria was full Tuesday night but not with students. More than 75 people--parents and school personnel--attended an education forum to learn about the impact controversial state legislative proposals will have on Carroll County Public Schools.
Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said that if Maintenance of Effort (MOE) isn't fixed and teacher pension costs are passed back to counties, class sizes will increase, and services and extracurricular activities will be cut.
Maintenance of effort is a law requiring counties to provide schools with funding per pupil at a level no lower than the prior year, and Gov. Martin O'Malley, in a separate issue, has proposed shifting the cost of teacher pensions to the counties.
"This is going to hit us in three areas ... There is no other way that I can go without cutting staff and that means increasing class size," Guthrie said. "Second, services are going to go away, the complete array of services that we offer to students now will decline.
"And lastly, extracurricular activites ... and I'm not just talking about sports, I'm talking about things that happen after school."
John Woolums, Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) director of governmental relations, said counties could be in for long-term budgeting frustration if MOE isn't fixed and the pension shift plan stopped.
Carroll County Commissioners have always met or exceeded MOE even though over the past three years that has translated to a combined $6.7 million decrease in funding for Carroll County Public Schools because the number of pupils in the system has declined. Seven Maryland counties failed to meet the MOE last year.
"The funding floor will drop by half. County by county, the rug on education funding will be pulled out from under us if MOE isn't fixed," Woolums said.
It's the double whammy of the MOE issue and the teacher pension shift that Woolums said creates such a problem for Carroll County.
O'Malley's proposed teacher pension shift means that the state would shift the burden of paying $240 million toward teacher pensions to counties and cities.
"What this means is that, without saving the taxpayers a dime, counties and or boards of education will have a new bill to pay every year that will escalate every year and that will not benefit the classroom," Woolum said. "It will jam up or frustrate county and school system budget relations for the foreseeable future."
Time is of the essence Woolum said, since the bills are being discussed in Annapolis now. He urged citizens to contact their state representatives.
"It seems obvious to us that the shift is a really bad idea," Woolums said. "But we don't seem to be winning that argument."
Want to learn more? Here are some resources to find more information.
House Bill 1412: Education--Maintenance of Effort
Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE): www.mabe.org/advocacy/state-advocacy
Maryland State Education Association (MSEA): www.marylandeducators.org/issuesandadvocacy
Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland (PSSAM): www.pssam.net/legistlation.htm
Delegation contact information: www.carrollk12.org/assets/file/BOE/delegationandcommitteechairs.pdf
Gov. Martin O'Malley proposed FY13 budget: www.governor.maryland.gov/documents/fy2013budgetpresentation.pdf