Maintenance of Effort

In 2012, the Maryland General Assembly passed SB 848, which fixed the broken Maintenance of Effort school funding law. This fix helps protect local school funding from deep cuts and ensures predictability in funding from year to year by setting a funding floor for school budgets. In 2011, seven counties ignored the mandatory waiver process, cutting $243.1 million in school funding without any accountability or transparency. These cuts led to increased class sizes, eliminated student services, and reduced extracurricular programs. For example, for school year 2011-12, MCPS received $71 million more in state education aid, yet the MCPS budget only increased by $30 million. Why? The County Government used the increase in state aid to cover a cut in local funding for our schools; diverting those funds for non-education purposes.

You can read about the recent history of the MOE issue below. From 2009 to 2011, state funding for MCPS increased by $160 million, but Montgomery County cut its local funding for MCPS by $144 million. Click the chart to see the declining share of local tax revenue being allocated to our schools.

MOETrendDataFY03-12

What should you know about MOE (Maintenance of Effort)?

Q. What is Maintenance of Effort?
A. Maintenance of Effort (MOE) is a state law that requires every local school district to spend at least as much per student as they did the previous year in order to receive additional state aid for education.

Q. If it is state law, how can counties spend less than they did the previous year?
A. The County Council exploited a loop hole in the law in order decrease their local per-pupil funding of our schools.

Q. What does the State Board of Education say about this?
A. In a written opinion issued in 2011, the State Board of Education stated:

“In 2010 we  granted MOE waivers to Montgomery County…Little did we realize that in 2011 the County would seek to avoid the waiver process and…have the ability to reduce tis education appropriation with impunity and penalize the school system…The flaws in the statute lead to such a result. If this trend continues…we express serious concerns about maintaining adequate funding for education in Maryland. …we again urge the General Assembly to address the flaws in the statute because the law is becoming not only unworkable, but subject to manipulation.”

You can read the entire State Board of Education opinion here.

Q. What does MCEA say about this?
A. Increased school aid from the state is meant to supplement – not supplant – local funding. We feel that the Council’s diversion of $40 million in education funds violates the intent of the law and that the law needs to be fixed.

Q. How does not meeting MOE impact the Montgomery County Public Schools?
A. It does three things:

  • It means the county is spending less on our students than they did the year before, impacting the quality of the education we are able to provide.
  • It reduces the floor for funding next year’s budget
  • Not meeting MOE means the state may not provide increased aid next  year, resulting in the loss of roughly $25 million

Q. Does the Montgomery County Board of Education support the Council’s actions?
A. No. In fact, MCEA had been working with the Superintendent and the Board of Education to prevent this from happening. The Maryland Association of Boards of Education is working all across the state to convince the General Assembly to fix the MOE law. Click here to read the Board of Education’s letter to the Montgomery County delegation.

Q. What is happening in other counties in Maryland? 
A. When compared to the rest of the state, Montgomery County’s education spending has not kept pace with most counties or the rate inflation. In fact, Montgomery County is spending no more per pupil than it did nine years ago! Read MSEA’s White Paper on Maintenance of Effort.

Q. What do other organizations say about this?
A. Both the Maryland State Education Association and the Maryland Association of Boards of Education believed that the MOE law needs to be fixed. The non-partisan Department of Legislative Services made a presentation to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, which highlights the flaws in the statute and the State Board of Education’s call for the General Assembly to fix the law. In 2012,The General Assembly fixed the Maintenance of Effort law. However, education supporters must remain vigilant for future efforts to undermine MOE and weakend the state’s committment to funding publicized education.