Leggett Calls For Increased State School Funding
The County Executives from Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore Counties stood together in unity to announce that they will work together to develop legislation requesting additional funding for school modernization and construction. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz indicated that this funding is essential to meet the growing need for more classrooms and better facilities in their counties. The executives also indicated that improving the teaching and learning environment in their jurisdictions would be a good first step to ensure that Maryland remains the number one state in education. The three executives were joined by members of their legislative delegations, school boards, county councils and superintendents for this important announcement.
Each leader emphasized that these three districts would be an excellent place to start as the state looks at modernization and construction of Maryland’s schools and facilities. According to the executives, these three counties make us 44 percent of the state’s student population and 46 percent of the students that participate in the state’s Free and Reduced Price Meals (FARMS) program. In addition, the combined student enrollment in the three school districts is projected to increase by more than 30,000 students by 2021.
“We believe that the state needs to take a serious look at ensuring that all students have the best facilities and classrooms as we prepare them for the 21st Century, said County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III. “With our growing populations and aging buildings, it makes sense for the state to focus on such a significant percentage of Maryland’s student population. As population that also makes up a large percentage of our most neediest children and families. 32 percent of Prince George’s County schools were built at least 50 years ago and another 49% were built 30 to 40 plus years ago. That translates to 81 percent of our schools that are over 30 years old. And most of them are in our neediest neighborhoods. In order for our children to achieve and succeed in school, we must provide them with a better quality learning environment and up to date facilities.”
County Executive Ike Leggett emphasized the strain that the projected growth for his school district will have on the county, even as the County has increased local school construction funding by one-third over the last seven years.
“In Montgomery County, our school system has grown by about 2,000 students a year over the past several years,” said County Executive Ike Leggett. “Our County’s unprecedented increase in enrollment is the highest in the State. Over the next 12 years, projected enrollment will grow by 25,000 students. We three County Executives have a very simple message: Our kids and families can’t afford for any of us to play ‘catch up.’ The State has an interest in helping us to educate the next wave of teachers and scientists and researchers and entrepreneurs who will lift up our Counties and this State long after all of us are gone.
The County Executives indicated that they have committed hundreds of millions of dollars in local funding for school renovation and construction projects over the past three years despite budget challenges and each jurisdiction has been able to maintain its Triple AAA bond rating. The leaders pledged that they are prepared to continue making significant long-term local contributions to school capital funding moving forward and they are asking the state to provide much needed assistance.
“Over the past three years, Baltimore County has proposed funding for ten new schools and six renovated schools at a cost of $600 million, including the State’s share of the cost. During that same time, the number of Baltimore County schools without air conditioning has been reduced from 52 to 22 percent,” stated Baltimore County Executive Kamenetz. “However, even with that historic level of funding, 83 percent of our schools are still more than 40 years old.”
Projected enrollment growth over the next seven years in Baltimore County and Montgomery County are amongst the highest in the state. Whereas, school systems in Prince George’s County and Baltimore County are amongst the top five jurisdictions in Maryland that maintain buildings older than the state average of 27 years old. (Prince George’s County has third oldest average age of school buildings and Baltimore County has fifth oldest.) In addition to the long term education benefits to the counties and the state, the executives also pointed out this effort would also create jobs, economic development, and improve the quality of life for communities within their jurisdiction.
County Executives Baker, Leggett, and Kamenetz indicated that they would work collaboratively with the three delegations to develop legislation that will move their counties and the children and families of Maryland forward. Each stated that at the end of the day, the ultimate winners are the children and families of Maryland who deserve the best environment for learning possible.