By Megan Poinski at marylandreporter.com
Controversial changes to the state’s maintenance of effort law for school funding passed on a mostly party-line vote of 93-44 by the House of Delegates during a nearly six-hour session Friday..
Dels. Barbara Frush and Joseline Pena-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s, were the only Democrats who voted against it. joining all the Republicans.
The maintenance of effort law requires that each county spend at least the same amount per student each year. The bill the House passed allows the state to take income tax revenue from counties that don’t contribute the amount they are required to, and provides more flexibility to counties that cannot meet the amount and are seeking waivers.
The bill also permits counties with property tax caps to exceed those caps if they need to raise more money.
Opponents felt that the new rules for maintenance of effort constituted an overreach of state powers and could force layoffs of other county workers, raids of county funds, and increased taxes.
“This bill is an affront to democracy. An affront to charter government,” said Del. Steve Schuh, R-Anne Arundel.
Del. Anne Kaiser, D-Montgomery, floor leader for the measure, said that the bill just provides more stability and predictability to the state’s school systems and ensures that they will remain well funded. Maryland’s commitment to fund its schools, she said, are the biggest reason the state has been recognized as having the nation’s best by Education Week magazine for four years running.
Del. John Bohanan, D-St. Mary’s, reiterated that the bill strengthens the priority that the state and its counties have in education funding.
“All this requires is that they keep up with us, that they stay in the same swim lane regarding the priority to fund education,” Bohanan said.
The bill has already passed the Senate, meaning it goes to Gov. Martin O’Malley for his signature.
Adam Mendelson, communications director for the Maryland State Education Association, said. “The passage of this bill is a big win for students, schools, and educators and very important for how we support our schools moving forward.”
Photo: Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell on the house floor. Maryland Reporter file photo.