ANNAPOLIS – Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and other county officials are continuing their push to get more school construction funding after testifying in front of the House Appropriations Committee last week.
Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore Counties have asked the General Assembly to pass House Bill 1323, which will provide each of the jurisdictions with an additional $20 million a year to support school construction funding. Last year the General Assembly passed a similar deal for Baltimore City.
“We are in the midst of a looming crisis,” Leggett said in his testimony. “Our school system has grown by more than 2,000 students a year over the past four years. For the 12 years that began in FY07, projected enrollment increases by 25,000 students – starting in the elementary schools and rippling through our middle and high schools. That’s almost a 20 percent increase. Nearly half of our schools are projected to have seat deficits by the 2018 to 2019 school year.”
Leggett said he has worked hard during the last seven years to fund school construction—increasing the county’s contribution by 36 percent during his tenure.
“Our kids and families can’t afford for any of us to play ‘catch up.’ We already have major capacity challenges,” Leggett said. “If we don’t invest now, we won’t be able to create the capacity we need to handle what’s ahead.”
Although state legislators have said it usually takes several tries to get the sort of deal Montgomery is asking for, County Council President Craig Rice is still holding out hope a deal can get done.
“Stranger things have happened,” Rice said.
In addition to elected officials, businesses support the bill as well. Brian A. Gragnolati, chair of the Montgomery Business Development Corporation, and Holly Sears Sullivan sent a letter to House Speaker Michael Busch urging passage of the bill because it will help the county retain its competitive edge.
“HB 1323 will ensure a reliable funding source for one of our best assets – our public education system,” they wrote. “This legislation establishes a funding partnership between the State and County to continue to provide quality education to residents. Our workforce is our top asset and we must continue to invest in our workforce by supporting our public education system.”
The Appropriations Committee still needs to vote on the proposal while a hearing is set to take place on March 12 in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee for the cross-filed bill.