Tuesday, March 11, 2014 6:03 AM
Published on: Thursday, November 07, 2013
By Donna Broadway
ROCKVILLE - If Montgomery County Public Schools has their way, the county will get millions in funds for school construction in the next Maryland General Assembly session in 2014.
According to statistics obtained from the county, MCPS added 14,599 new students from 2000-2012. MCPS, the largest school system in the state, added more students than Anne Arundel, Howard, Frederick and Baltimore counties combined. The county estimates there will be overcrowding by the 2018-2019 school year.
The county estimates that Montgomery County public schools account for 17.3 percent of Maryland’s public school enrollment.
“We simply cannot keep up with the tremendous growth we are experiencing, and we need to be creative as a community to solve our funding dilemma,” said Christopher Barclay, president of the MCPS Board of Education. “We need our state partners to help solve this problem. We need to make sure our students have the learning spaces they need to thrive in their future.”
The county council, along with County Executive Ike Leggett, the MCPS school board and members of the Montgomery County Delegation are asking Gov. Martin O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly to allocate $20 million for school construction. The county will invest $40 million and plans to use $60 million in revenue to support a $750 million bond issuance.
Superintendent Joshua Starr’s 2015-2020 Capital Improvements Program budget requests $1.55 billion over the next six years for 14 new classroom addition projects, including 12 at elementary schools, construction of five new schools and keeping some other previously approved revitalization/expansion projects on schedule. Starr estimates the county actually needs $2.2 billion to accommodate the growing school system.
“Solving the capacity crisis in our schools is Montgomery County’s top priority in Annapolis,” said Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro. “By making tough choices and strategic investments, Montgomery County was able to retain its AAA Bond Rating. In order to maintain our county’s fiscal health, we need to create a partnership with the state to significantly increase school construction funding. Solving this crisis is not only a quality of life issue for students; it is also an economic imperative for the State of Maryland.”
Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20), chairman of the Montgomery Senate Delegation, supported the county in asking for additional funds.
“As chairman of the Montgomery Senate Delegation, I saw what our delegation was able to produce last year when the Montgomery legislators, the council and the executive were united behind our transportation package, which everyone thought was impossible,” Raskin said. “And a united Montgomery delivered on marriage equality, gun safety and repeal of the death penalty, too. We are going to Annapolis in January determined to invest in the capacity and modernization needs of our county schools, which are overflowing with students. To keep producing the number one schools in the country, we need to have the number one infrastructure for the learning and teaching environment.”
Samantha Kappalman, spokeswoman for O’Malley, said the governor has not made a decision regarding the call for funding.
"County Executive Leggett called the governor to let him know that they would be requesting additional funds. It's premature to discuss funding decisions at this time,” Kappalman said.