“We are going to see some changes to teachers’ retirement – there’s no doubt about that.” Thus began the first legislative update provided this year to the Harford County Board of Education by Kathy Carmello, governmental relations liaison for Harford County Public Schools.
Noting that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed FY12 budget did not include a shift of teacher pension costs to local school boards, for next year at least, Carmello said that there were a number of bills in the 2011 Maryland General Assembly that would alter the current state-funded system, and that she was waiting for “the dust to settle on pension changes.”
In terms of state funding for school operations, Carmello said that the proposed budget would mean cuts to Harford County that she later estimated at $3.7 – $4.7 million less than last year. Carmello said an amendment requesting that the funds be reinstated was in the works.
Following her opening remarks, Carmello reviewed several education bills among the 230 such bills introduced to date. She requested and received positions from the school board on two bills as indicated in the text of the legislative update below.
Generating some discussion was Senate Bill 41, which would extend the age of compulsory school attendance from 15 to 17. While supportive of keeping students in school, Carmello recommended that the board take no position on SB 41, saying that the bill was unlikely to pass due to the high cost of implementation. Board Member Bob Frisch suggested that the board consider opposing the bill out of concern that the costs, for staffing and additional space, would be passed on to local school systems. The board took no action regarding the bill.
Board President Mark Wolkow and Board Member Rick Grambo offered differing opinions on a bill that would provide tax credits for contributions to private schools, known as Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers (BOAST) in Maryland Tax Credit. Wolkow said that the bill would take money away from public schools “where there is a lot of accountability” and give it to private schools, where he said there was no accountability to the state for student achievement. Grambo countered that the bill would allow more school choice and could reduce the burden on public schools. The board is opposed to the bill based on a legislative platform adopted before Grambo became a member. Carmello noted that while the tax credit bill had been introduced without success in prior sessions, it now had bipartisan support, notably including Delegate Mary-Dulany James.
Here is the full legislative update, including links to the respective bills: