Legislation from federal and state governments has impacted public education in Maryland. The State’s Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools and the Federal No Child Left Behind legislation require school systems to ensure that all students in core academic areas are taught by “highly qualified” teachers and economically disadvantaged children must have access to a pre-kindergarten program. In addition, there are new certification and assessment requirements for paraprofessionals and extensive tracking and reporting requirements.
Newer requirements from the federal Race to the Top program include adopting standards and writing curriculum that prepare students for college and workplace success, building data systems that measure student growth and inform teachers and principals about how to improve instruction, redesigning teacher and principal evaluation systems, and turning around persistently low-achieving schools. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments that will be fully implemented in 2014-2015 require school systems to build technology capacity for administering the computer-based assessments which may require additional technology and/or bandwidth to administer the assessments in an efficient and timely manner. All of these requirements have significant cost impacts.
A majority of the funding for the school system comes from the Maryland General Assembly. State aid education formulas are based largely on student population and wealth. Wealth in the state aid education formulas is measured by income taxes, real estate assessments, and personal property assessments. Less funding can result when a school system’s student population declines or wealth increases more than state averages or decreases less than state averages. Student population is also a factor in the required minimum of funding from county government called maintenance of effort.
During the 2012 Maryland General Assembly session, legislation was approved to shift a portion of the employer’s share of teacher pension back to local school systems. State government had previously paid all of the employer’s contribution to the pension system for teachers. To pay the incremental costs to the school system, the required minimum funding from county government was increased since school systems in Maryland rely entirely on appropriations from state and county government. Some county governments were awarded supplemental disparity grants from state government to help offset some of the cost of the teacher pension shift. State government also enacted tax increases that would increase county government revenues. Allegany County government received a supplemental disparity grant that exceeded the required minimum increase to the local school system in FY2013 but the package of the supplemental disparity grant and state tax increases will not pay for the increase in teacher pension shift in future years. The ability to secure additional funding exceeding the teacher pension shift from the county government is limited since Allegany County is the fourth poorest jurisdiction in the state of Maryland as measured by wealth per pupil.
The school system completed a utilization study of the secondary schools in the city of Cumberland. A committee consisting of stakeholders recommended building and renovations to all five schools as part of a long range facility program. A feasibility study focusing on a high school and two middle schools in the city of Cumberland was completed. The Board of Education voted the construction of a new high school as the number one school construction priority for the school system. The school system has acquired a site in the city limits of Cumberland at no cost for the construction of Allegany High School. Allegany County qualifies to have state government pay for 93% of the eligible construction costs. The state has approved the project and funded part of the project locking in the 93% eligible cost factor for the project. Costs not eligible for state funding must be funded locally. The system was required to fund part of the construction of Mountain Ridge High School by county government for costs exceeding a stated dollar amount.