September 15, 2023
Article originally published at eastongazette.com
If you are the Governor of Maryland or a legislator, you may be able to ignore when counties like Caroline, Talbot, Garrett etc. protest state mandated programs. After all, those counties are small and won’t carry much water for your legislative agenda, or even more important, your re-election.
But, when counties like Montgomery, Baltimore, Prince George’s and even Baltimore City start pushing back on huge spending boondoggles like the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, you know you have a problem.
The Blueprint, which is costing counties millions of dollars above their education budgets and increasing property taxes by as much at 10% in some areas, is quickly becoming political and practical poison for those in power in Annapolis especially during a time when the Governor has stated that the State is out of money. Like dominoes, counties across the state are resisting the strain on their budgets and lack of local control.
Projections of the cost of the bill and its unfunded mandates are staggering:
The legislative services department noted in its evaluation of the state’s financial condition that “the cash and structural budget outlook deteriorates…due to the costs of ongoing K-12 education enhancements.” Backers of the Kirwan plan (Blueprint) have often repeated the notion that it will cost $4 billion by 2033. However, the true cost will be more than $4 billion annually. Thus, it will cost the state and local governments more than $40 billion by 2033. This came as a surprise even to Democratic politicians like Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, who called the cost to the city a “gut punch.” -( Source:Marylanders should get ready for tax hikes – MarylandReporter.com).
County executives across the state are pushing back.
From Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D):
“We do not have a truly cooperative, interactive relationship, at this point, but nobody does,” Elrich said. “Montgomery County is not unique. You’ll find these kinds of arguments all around the state between county governments and the local school boards. We’re like a money machine but we have no power in how the money gets tapped at some point.”
“The county has no authority,” he said. “We can’t even, for example, look at a budget line item and say we don’t think you should do that program. We’re not going to fund that program and we want you to fund a different program. County has no ability to do that. ”- Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich ( D) Had to raise taxes 10% just for Education.
And, from Howard County:
“I think that there is an important conversation to be had about a county executive and a council or commissioner-based system who have so much funding responsibility and zero ability to actually ensure where those dollars go and that they’re used effectively,”-Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive, (D)
Stuart Pittman, Anne Arundel County Executive:
The question of whether county governments should have greater control over their school districts has been an ongoing conversation for the so-called Big 8 jurisdictions and the Maryland Association of Counties over several months, according to Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D).
“I think it’s mostly focused on transparency in budgeting,” he said. “Most of us feel like we don’t have a good sense of what their finances really look like and maybe there’s a more collaborative approach.”
Smaller counties point out that they not only don’t have the funding to support the education excesses required by the Blueprint, for example, the Head of Budget and Management from Carroll County, addressed the Maryland State Board of Education in the Spring and told them that the Blueprint will hurt schools in his district. He stated that the Blueprint will take resources away from schools in Carroll County and put them in schools targeted by the Blueprint. This will cause overcrowded classrooms in those schools that were previously successful.
Calvert County School Superintendent Andrew Townsend said the 10.5% increase in school funding is “unprecedented “and needed to meet the mandates of the Blueprint for Maryland.
State Delegate Jeff Ghrist, whose district includes parts of Caroline, Queen Anne’s, Cecil and Kent Counties has pointed out many times that districts such as the ones he represents can’t possibly meet the physical and staffing requirements of the Blueprint, much less the monetary.
In Talbot, county council members state that they want to have more local control of their education spending since it comprises 42.1% of the county’s yearly budget and drastically impacts taxes in the county. The council had to tack on a 4.8 % education tax supplement onto citizens’ tax bills on top of the taxes already levied. While paying more, citizens will have less input into education spending than ever before.
The pleas for sanity fell on deaf ears with some legislators.
Senate Majority Leader Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery), who chairs two Budget and Taxation subcommittees that deal with education issues, said there is no need to change the current system.
“I would be absolutely, 1000% against that,” King said, adding that Elrich and others lack the experience to make decisions for the school system.
“He needs to do his job and let the school board do their job,” she said.
King, a former school board member, said complaints about lack of oversight amount to “a nice political thing to say.”
“All these people, they want to re-do the budget. They want to re-do how school systems run, it’s like they don’t have enough of their own jobs to do,” she said.
Somebody check King’s hearing, because she isn’t getting the message, especially from the people. Marylanders don’t want expensive, frivolous mandates imposed on their schools particularly when they see miserable state test scores.
Sixty-three percent are against raising taxes to support the Blueprint according to a poll done by the Maryland Public Policy Institute. Forty-eight percent of Democrats and 84% of Republicans are against the spending.
But, it could just be citizens, like State Senator Nancy King said, ” don’t have enough of their own jobs to do.” You mean, those jobs they hold to make ends meet and pay expensive tax bills in their counties and state, Nancy?You mean the jobs they hold to overcome inflation and put food on the table?
Maybe we should start a “Go Fund Me” to buy Nancy a pair of hearing aids. Do they have them to prevent being tone deaf?
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Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.