May 6, 2010

Montgomery council lawyers: Schools lawsuit based on 'a house of cards'

According to the Washington Post, That lawsuit threatened by the Montgomery County school system now has a detailed rebuttal. The public schools essentially argued that the county council is toothless under current circumstances and can't trim the school budget proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). This line of reasoning was not popular among the county's Appropriators in Chief. And, according to the council's lawyers, it was based on an erroneous reading of the law. The draft school suit, they write, is based on a mistaken interpretation of a provision in state law requiring a minimum level of funding. The suit conflates what state law says about mandatory spending and a separate provision concerning year-to-year funding known as maintenance of effort, the council attorneys argue.

"Once this fundamental flaw in the [Montgomery County Public Schools'] attorney's argument is exposed, the entire argument falls like a house of cards," write legislative attorneys Michael Faden and Robert Drummer. "If the Legislature had intended to further qualify the Council's broad authority to reduce the school budget in [Maryland Education Article] 5-103, they would have expressly said so."

The schools' lawyer said she's not surprised by the arguments.

"I understand they're going to take that kind of position," said attorney Judith S. Bresler. "I guess the judge will determine who's right."

Here's the council memo: Montgomery Council Legal Response

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