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State may levy millions in fines against Montgomery schools

Montgomery County

The Montgomery County school system could be forced to pay millions of dollars in penalties under an opinion Wednesday by Maryland's attorney general that its county government had "artificially" satisfied a state law that sets a minimum funding level for education.

The 21-page opinion issued by Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler could leave Montgomery County liable for $16 million to $64 million in penalties, county officials said. The state Board Of Education will decide whether to penalize the school systems.

Gansler said Prince George's County committed the same violation, but School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said that, based on the formula used to calculate the penalty, he is unsure whether his school district will have to pay anything.

The central issue has been the ability of local governments to comply with Maryland's "maintenance of effort" law, which sets minimum spending on education. During the economic recession, Montgomery and Prince George's have had trouble meeting the spending requirement.

Montgomery and Prince George's county councils ordered their school systems to reimburse them for debt service on public school construction, an expense usually covered by the counties. The attorney general described that move as an "artificial" way of meeting the minimum requirement for education spending while actually decreasing the amount spent on education. In Montgomery, the reimbursement was $79.5 million. In Prince George's, it was $11.8 million.

Read the full article here.

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  November 5, 2009; 10:41 AM ET
Categories:  Montgomery County , Prince George's Hospital  
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