Budget dueling is back over Montgomery schools funding
It's budget season in Montgomery, and that means it's time for the yearly bout of brinksmanship between leaders of the Montgomery County public schools and county officials who decide how much money will go to education -- at a time when many government departments are shrinking.
Last year, the school board threatened to sue the county council, essentially arguing that the council was toothless and couldn't cut the schools funding figure proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). The council dismissed that idea as a challenge to one of its basic powers and a fundamental misreading of the law. The council ended up making modest cuts to Leggett's school spending proposal.
This year, the school board has taken its latest version of that argument to the Maryland State Board of Education.
"The council is not granted authority to reduce or to deny funding requests" from the schools, according to a March 2 legal filing seeking a declaratory ruling on that and other school funding questions. Only Leggett can cut the schools budget, the schools' lawyer argued once again.
On Thursday, Council President Valerie Ervin fired off a letter to the school board expressing the council's "extreme disappointment with the Board's latest legal maneuver ... challenging our budget and appropriation authority," and said the council will defend its legal rights.
Leggett will release his proposed budget Tuesday, and the council is planning to make its own decisions on education spending, as it does in other areas of county government. How the dispute ends will depend on budget math and political will in the weeks before the council passes a final budget in May.
Washington Post Editors
| March 10, 2011; 2:43 PM ET
Categories: Michael Laris, Montgomery County
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