Opinion: School funding workgroup is stacked against counties

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By Bill Valentine

As a former Allegany County Commissioner, I am proud to have served over two years on the Kirwan Commission – the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education — to help create better education in Maryland. I was appointed to represent the rural counties of the State.

An interim report was submitted in January of 2019, offering numerous proposals, all coming with a rather hefty price tag.

A subcommittee, The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Funding Formula Workgroup, has now been created to make recommendations for the distribution of funds by local school districts and between state and local governments. This workgroup will also make recommendations for specific funding formulas.

I am greatly troubled by the make-up of the workgroup, which has only two members to represent interests of the county governments that pay the local costs of schools. Since most of this work will focus on how costs will be divided between state and county governments, I would think the group should be better populated by county executives, county administrators, county finance directors and elected county officials.

A large financial burden will be placed on the counties to help fund Kirwan Commission proposals, and yet, the workgroup consists mainly of state senators and delegates and education representatives. The counties will be tasked with funding these new unfunded mandates, without have an equal voice at the table.

Only two of the 13 members will be representing county interests, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and former senator and commission member Richard Madaleno, now the Montgomery County budget director. At least four members are from Baltimore City.

Education is important and must improve in our great state, but the counties that spend over 50% of their budgets on education, should have greater representation on the workgroup. With all teachers receiving a 10% wage increase, and the starting salaries for teachers being increased to $60,000 a year, increases to the counties will be substantial. This workgroup will also decide if full-day pre-Kindergarten students and full-day Kindergarten students will be added to county maintenance of effort.

Counties are true funding partners for educations, but once again have been closed-out of funding discussions. This is the type of action that causes problems between county governments and local Boards of Education

Members of the funding formula workgroup

  • The members of the Workgroup include:
    William E. “Brit” Kirwan, Chair of the Kirwan Commission, Former Chancellor of the University System of Maryland
  • Harford County Executive Barry Glassman
  • Former Chair of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, Senator Joan Carter Conway, Baltimore City
  • Matt Gallagher, President of the Goldseker Foundation and Former Chief of Staff to Maryland Governor, Baltimore City
  • Sean Johnson,  Assistant Executive Director of the Maryland State Educators Association
  • Richard Madaleno, Montgomery County Director of Management & Budget and Former Vice Chair of the Senate Budget & Tax Committee
  • Alvin Thornton, Chair of the Prince George’s County Board of Education
  • Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Baltimore City, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee,
  • Senator Bill Ferguson, Baltimore City, Vice Chair of the Senate Budget & Tax Committee
  • Eloise Foster, former State Budget Secretary for Gov. Martin O’Malley
  • Cheryl Pasteur, former principal and member of the Baltimore County Board of Education
  • Monique Davis, Assistant Superintendent for Anne Arundel County Public Schools and former Deputy Superintendent for Prince George’s County Public Schools
  • Budget Secretary David Brinkley, Appointee for Gov. Larry Hogan