Montgomery County PTA members and local elected officials got along swimmingly last week when they joined together in Annapolis to lobby for more school construction funding from the state.
Now, the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (MCCPTA) wants to make sure County Executive Isiah Leggett and members of the County Council give MCPS what it wants in next year’s operating budget.
They began to apply the pressure Friday. Leggett will announce his recommended FY 2015 operating budget on Monday.
In an open letter to Leggett and the County Council released Friday, the MCCPTA praised the “unity in support of our schools,” officials showed with the capital budget. It then cautioned those same leaders that votes in this June’s primary are on the line when it comes to how the county handles its upcoming operating budget:
Our county executive and members of the county council will soon demonstrate if they deeply support schools and students or not. Not only when state money is involved, but when the local money over which they have sole authority is on the line. Parents and children don’t want to hear arguments about ceiling and floors, at least not in the context of budgets; we want to hear about responsible restoration, starting in FY 2015, of funding slashed over the past decade. We want to see an alignment of rhetoric and revenue.
At issue again could be the state’s Maintenance of Effort (MOE) law that requires local governments to fund its school system at a certain level each fiscal year.
The county’s Board of Education approved an operation budget request of $2.32 billion from MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr last month. That would be a roughly 4 percent increase from last year’s MCPS operating budget of $2.2 billion and $51.7 million, or 2.3 percent, above the minimum amount required by state law.
County officials have argued the MOE law unfairly ties the hands of county governments by requiring counties to fund their school systems at the same level as the previous fiscal year or face fines and reduced state aid. Leggett recommended funding MCPS at the MOE level last year. Starr had requested more.
The Council will deliberate any potential changes to Leggett’s recommended budget over the next few months. In the letter, MCCPTA President Janette Gilman said votes will be on the line:
I am optimistic that our local leaders will do right by our children and school. And I know the conclusions I am going to draw before I head to the ballot box in June if the school budget is not fully funded or if the conversations turn back again to MOE (Maintenance of Effort) this spring. And I know 50,000+ Montgomery County PTA members-and registered voters-who will do exactly the same.