December 19, 2012

The Post is unhappy that Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr has recommended to the school board a $2.2 billion budget that is $10 million (less than half a percent) above Maryland’s maintenance-of-effort requirement [“Spending fight in Montgomery,” editorial, Dec. 16].

The General Assembly acted last year to ensure adequate education funding by clarifying the law that sets the minimum funding counties must spend on education. However, the law does not, as the editorial stated, make “it hard or impossible for counties to pare spending.” Rather, it requires an open, transparent and enforceable process — the hallmarks of good governance.

The law makes explicit that “maintenance of effort” are not empty words, but it also offers counties more flexibility to address fiscal downturns by giving them more protections, including a guaranteed waiver that does not require State Board of Education approval to go below the funding floor. In addition, the law created a waiver that recognizes counties that have exceeded required funding levels and need relief when severe economic challenges undermine their ability to continue at the same funding level.

Regardless of budget choices made last year (i.e., increasing salaries for some of the schools workforce vs. hiring more teachers), this year’s county funding requirement would be the same. The Montgomery County Board of Education believes in investing in people who have delivered results second to none, and as the fiscal stewards of the school system, it has ensured an excellent return on the county’s investment.

The Post might want to pit the county against the school system, but the Board of Education wants to find common ground so that we can meet the needs of all children in our county.

Christopher S. Barclay, Takoma Park

The writer is president of the Montgomery County Board of Education.