Budget shortfalls put school busing at risk

After a report published last February that detailed Montgomery County’s budget shortfall, legislators in the Maryland general assembly have been hard at work trying to close the deficit.
Though it has since been withdrawn from consideration, a bill proposed by Maryland Senator Richard Madaleno (D-18, Kensington) would allow MCPS to charge busing fees to students who attend foreign language immersion and magnet programs at schools out of their district.
“Montgomery County is the only county in the state that has a law explicitly prohibiting bus fees, and this bill would have repealed it,” Madaleno’s chief of staff Adam Fogel said.
However, issues regarding the constitutionality of the legislation raised concerns in the general assembly.
“Basically, the office of the Attorney General alerted [Maladeno] that there were some constitutional issues with the bill, and the legislation was not sufficient,” Fogel said.
According to a Dec. 2 press release from the state senator, he proposed the bill in order to provide greater flexibility to the Board in balancing their budget, and he continues to find this an important goal, despite the bill’s withdrawal. Madaleno believes that busing to those programs may be cut if they are not paid for privately, and that a diminished demand for buses will lead to job layoffs.
According to the February 2010 Summary of Potential Budget Reductions for FY 2011, MCPS planned to cut 65 fulltime workers in order to save about $4.9 million.
“My top priorities as State Senator are to help create and protect jobs and maintain our world-class public schools,” Madaleno said in the release. “I urge the Board of Education to explore alternatives to save bus transportation for these exceptional programs and the jobs of these Montgomery County employees.”