2019 | Government

Updated: Montgomery Would Pay $263 Million More for Education in FY2030 under New Formula

How county would pay for increase not determined

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Maryland General Assembly

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Montgomery County would pay an additional $263 million for public schools by 2030 under funding proposals announced by a state panel tasked with improving Maryland schools.

A work group connected to the Kirwan Commission on Tuesday announced its proposal, totaling more than $4 billion annually, to increase teachers’ salaries, provide more counselors and increase access to early childhood education across the state.

The Kirwan Commission — named after its chairman, William E. “Brit” Kirwan, a former University System of Maryland chancellor — has been meeting frequently since 2016 to create education policy changes to increase student success.

The funding plan as announced would task Montgomery County with providing $262.7 million more per year for schools — an increase of 14 percent — by fiscal year 2030. By the same year, the state would need to provide an additional $234.8 million, for a total increase in annual spending on Montgomery County schools of $497.5 million.

Overall, for the $4 billion more in overall spending, the state would provide $2.8 billion and the local governments would provide $1.2 billion, according to the proposal. Funding increases would be phased until it reached that level. Local governments would pay in starting in fiscal year 2022.

The full commission will review the funding recommendations at future meetings before making a final recommendation to Gov. Larry Hogan and state lawmakers.

The proposal does not say how the state and each local government should pay for the increased spending. Council President Nancy Navarro said Montgomery County would have to take a hard look at its budget to determine how the proposal would affect current spending and where the additional $263 million could be raised.

But it would still be “premature,” she added, for any public official to make a definitive comment on the proposal. The funding levels still need to be adopted by the full Kirwan Commission, passed through the state legislature, and approved by Hogan, who opposed the plan Tuesday afternoon.

It’s also unclear if the commission will consider independent efforts by local governments to increase educational spending, Navarro added. In March, Montgomery County allocated an additional $7 million for early childhood education with the goal of expanding preschool and child care access. It’s possible that $7 million could be subtracted from the additional spending suggested by the Kirwan work group.

“I’m trying to make sure there’s flexibility — that they take into consideration what counties are already doing if it aligns with the commission’s goals,” Navarro said.

Council Member Craig Rice is a member of Kirwan Commission and has been advocating on behalf of Montgomery County, she added.

County Executive Marc Elrich said his office planned to brief him on the details of the plan Wednesday afternoon. But the figures released Tuesday were lower than initial estimates, he said, and the county already planned to increase school funding over the next several years.

“It’s not as crazy as I thought,” Elrich said. “And I understand that other counties have a much heavier load to bear.”

Montgomery County Public Schools’ budget this year is $2.66 billion.

Some counties would not have to pay anything extra or only slightly more, according to the proposal. They include nearby Howard and Charles counties, which would pay no additional money under the plan.

But neighboring Prince George’s County would have to spend almost $100 million more per year than Montgomery County, according to figures released by the work group.

State money phased in during this fiscal year and the next four would go to college and career readiness, teacher supplies, teachers’ salaries, special education, pre-kindergarten, mental health coordinators and other areas.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Hogan said “the Kirwan Tax Hike Commission is hellbent on spending billions more than we can afford, and legislators are refusing to come clean about where the money is going to come from.

“Even after more than three years of meetings, there is still no clear plan whatsoever for how either the state or the counties will pay this massive price tag.”

Managing Editor Andrew Schotz and staff writer Kate Masters contributed to this story.