- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
With the 2013 General Assembly Legislative session days away, the Calvert County Board of Education has taken a clear position against what it calls “one-size-fits-all” legislation, whether it applies to spending, student discipline or union and board relations.
The board recently published a legislative position paper, highlighting items its members support and oppose for the running of the school system. There is one clear theme throughout the paper: County school boards need to maintain some level of authority as to how their individual school systems run.
“That is extremely important to our local board,” said Calvert County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith, who said Maryland school systems vary greatly when it comes to not only size, but geographic circumstances as well.
“When everyone’s painted with the same brush, it often brings unintended negative outcomes,” Smith said.
When it comes to school funding, the board has taken a position against using average daily attendance in place of enrollment in state funding formulas. The board also opposes shifting funding responsibilities, like teacher retirement costs and tuition costs for special education students in nonpublic schools, from state to local school systems or governments.
Board member Dawn Balinski said via phone she hoped the state could find ways to lessen the burden of the portion of retirement costs that the county is already covering.
“Now somehow the counties have to find ways to magically pick that up,” Balinski said, adding that without state aid, the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners could be in a position in which it would have to either decrease education funding or raise taxes.
“The state legislature still needs to address that. … As everybody’s economy improves, they need to pass that down,” Balinski said.
The board also expressed support for Maintenance of Effort laws, which require that counties do not decrease per-pupil spending from one fiscal year to the next.
When it comes to school discipline, the Maryland State Board of Education published a report in November 2012 proposing new guidelines that could put a suspended student back in the classroom earlier than he or she might currently be back in school. One of the intents of this proposal was to address a disproportionate number of minority students out of school for extended periods of time. The Calvert County Board of Education is asking the state legislators to consider its concerns regarding the policy.
Calvert County Board of Education member Tracy McGuire said she thought the state board of education’s proposal put student rehabilitation ahead of student safety.
She said while rehabilitation was one aspect of student suspensions, safety should always be the No. 1 priority in a school system.
The Calvert County Board of Education is also opposing any potential legislation that could give the state’s Public School Labor Relations Board the final say in a conflict between a county union and a county’s board of education’s negotiating team.
Balinski said if the labor relations board had this type of authority, it could force a school board to spend money it doesn’t have.
“You don’t need to be dealing with this at a time of reduced budgets. I feel that it was an overreaching authority,” Balinski said.
The Calvert County Board of Education’s position paper also stated that working with the labor relations board has led to delays in decision-making and increased litigation costs.
While the Calvert County Board of Education is taking strong stands in its position paper, McGuire said she has yet to hear of specific legislation that could be a serious concern to CCPS.
“It’s not nearly as frantic as it was this time last year,” she said, explaining that her board has been receiving regular legislative updates from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and CCPS Policy and Communication Specialist Gail Bennett.
“Hopefully, this will be a quiet general assembly legislative session for us,” McGuire said.
For a complete list of the board’s positions, go to www.calvertnet.k12.md.us/departments/administration/boe/documents/legislation_paper.pdf.