Arundel school board calls for level education funding

Board members want state to reject Leopold's request to cut; exec. says he doesn't need it anymore

May 09, 2011|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education has asked the state to dismiss county Executive John R. Leopold's request to exempt the county from state-mandated education funding requirements, officials said on Monday.

In March, Leopold formerly requested that the State Board of Education grant the county a waiver request from maintenance of effort, a state requirement that counties spend at least as much per pupil to educate county students the upcoming school year as it did the previous year.

Leopold now says he no longer needs the exception to balance his budget, but the school board is continuing to fight his request. On Monday, the panel argued in a formal objection that Leopold filed the request without required County Council approval.

Leopold said Monday afternoon that he withdrew the maintenance of effort request last week, and therefore the school board's dismissal request is moot. He said that the county's decision to utilize debt service in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget allows the county to meet maintenance of effort requirements.

State board of education spokesman William Reinhard said Monday, however, that though the county has contacted the office stating its intentions to withdraw the request, it has yet to actually do so — meaning the request is still active.

In its request for dismissal the school board said it believes that the majority of County Council members object to the maintenance of waiver request, citing conversations board members have had with County Council members.

Council chairman Richard Ladd said he thought that was true. "Before the issue was whether to do any maintenance of effort work," he said. "No one agreed not to doing maintenance of effort."

The school board's motion to dismiss also points to Leopold's Fiscal Year 2012 capital and operating budget message to county council request that stated, "This budget increases funding for public schools and accounts for rising enrollment. There is absolutely no need to furlough teachers, increase class size or request a Maintenance of Effort waiver from the State of Maryland.

Leopold also stated in the address, however, that, "The Superintendent and School Board's operating budget submitted to me requested a $34.8 million increase for pay raises, while not adding a single new classroom teacher. Such a request is unrealistic and unsustainable given our budget limitations."

Also Monday, the County Council held the first of two public hearings on Leopold's fiscal 2012 budget, which includes funding for Anne Arundel County Public Schools. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

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