Anne Arundel seeks exemption from state education funding requirement

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold has requested a waiver from a state requirement that determines how much each county must spend to educate its students.

Leopold said Friday that he is seeking to exempt the county from funding $15 million (or 1.5 percent) of the school system's $968 million budget. He has requested a waiver from the state's maintenance of effort, which requires counties to spend as much to educate each of its pupils for the coming fiscal year as they did the previous year.

"For the last 10 years, the county has exceeded maintenance of effort by $208 million," said Leopold, who added he submitted the waiver to the state Board of Education on Thursday, marking the first time that the county has made the request.

"The maintenance formula needs to be reformed in order to account for counties that exceed maintenance of effort, such as Anne Arundel County has, Montgomery County has and other counties have," said Leopold. He added that 20 years ago, the county's Board of Education budget was 42 percent of the total county budget and that it is now more than 52 percent.

"We need not wait another 10 years for the Board of Education to take 62 percent of the budget," Leopold said. "We need to take corrective action now. The Board of Education budget, while obviously … very important, is starving the other agencies of county government of the resources they need to maintain the quality of life that county residents expect."

Anne Arundel public schools spokesman Bob Mosier said that Superintendent Kevin Maxwell opposes the county's request and added that the county Board of Education will consider formally opposing it at its Wednesday meeting.

"It's just a roller coaster ride. The problem is, we have 75,500 children on the roller coaster," said Mosier. "It's their futures that are at stake here. "

Mosier said that if the state rejects the county's maintenance-of-effort waiver request, and the county still trims $15 million of the education budget, the school system could lose an anticipated $9.5 million in state funding for violating the maintenance-of-effort requirement.

"We believe the cuts of the magnitude that the county executive is proposing are detrimental to our children, to their futures and, in line with that, detrimental to the quality of life in this county," said Mosier.

Leopold pointed out that the county budget will require furloughs and possibly layoffs. "The school board wants to use their portion of the budget for pay increases," he said. "There has to be shared sacrifice."

Maryland State Department of Education officials said that in addition to Anne Arundel, the following counties had submitted maintenance-of-effort requests by 5 p.m. Friday: Montgomery, Queen Anne's, Kent, Talbot and Wicomico. Counties had until Friday to make the request.

It is unclear when the General Assembly will make decisions about the waivers because it is now weighing changes to maintenance of effort.

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