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Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 01/20/2012

School funding debates heat up in Rockville and Annapolis

This week, Montgomery County officials unveiled their capital spending plan and state lawmakers began debating education spending priorities in Annapolis. Here are a few developments to watch that could have an impact on the bottom line for Montgomery schools.

Although the Board of Education had requested $1.49 billion, or a nearly 10 percent increase, in school construction funding for next year, the county may reduce its share of building costs: County Executive Isiah Leggett proposed a $1.36 billion school construction spending cap, a 0.3 percent decrease from the previous plan.

The state could potentially make up some of the difference, though. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is pushing for more school construction
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley addresses the House of Delegates on the opening day of the 2012 legislative session in Annapolis, Md., Wednesday, Jan. 11. (Patrick Semansky - AP)
money statewide. He is proposing to spend more than $350 million building schools — and creating jobs — the second highest amount in Maryland history.

Also under debate during the 90-day session in Annapolis will be how to fix a law that determines the minimum amount a locality can provide to schools each year (a law that local school boards and teachers unions say puts millions of dollars at risk that school systems have traditionally relied upon), and whether the state should shift more of the hefty cost of teacher pensions to the counties. This could add a big responsibility to localities in future years.

Montgomery’s school board held budget hearings over the past two weeks and plans to approve an operating budget proposal by Feb 14. A final spending plan will be contingent on county and state-level funding decisions, though. The final budget won’t be approved until June.

By  |  08:00 AM ET, 01/20/2012

 
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