MCPS pushes for increase in construction funding

MCPS pushes for increase in construction funding

Cabin John Middle School is one of several CHS cluster schools to be renovated.

By Pablo Roa, Production Editor

In an effort to prepare MCPS for the continued growth of the student population that is expected over the next several years, state legislators are considering a bill that would vastly increase the amount of state funding for school construction in MCPS.

According to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, MCPS has grown by more than 2,000 students per year over the past four years and is projected to increase by 25,000 students over a 12-year span that began in 2007. Without additional construction funding from the state, the county’s growing student body will lead to overcrowded schools throughout MCPS.

“We need resources to expand and build more schools, as well as to improve the schools we already have,” Leggett said in a March 13 press conference with MCPS student journalists.

In his testimony before the Maryland House Appropriations Committee March 6, Leggett stressed that MCPS is “in the midst of a looming crisis” that will not be resolved unless the state provides adequate school construction funds to adapt to the growing number of students.

According to Leggett, since nearly half of the county’s schools are projected to have seat deficits by the 2018 school year, school construction projects are necessary to make room for the growing student body. While the county and state governments already provide funds for this purpose, additional funding at the state level is needed to ensure that MCPS has the proper resources for the constructions and renovations.

“Traditionally, the county government provides a source of moneys for school construction, about 85 percent of the construction dollars that go into the schools,” Leggett said. “In addition to the local funds, the state provides a sum of money through its capital budget that they set aside for schools, and that amount has varied from year to year.”

According to Leggett, MCPS usually competes with other counties for $30-40 million of state funding each year. The bill, which was proposed by delegates from Montgomery, Baltimore and Prince George’s counties Feb. 7, would grant a substantial increase in funding for the three counties, which represent 44 percent of the state’s students.

“We hope for at least $20 million a year for the next 20 years,” Leggett said. “This is not through the traditional route; this is an unprecedented amount over and above what we traditionally get.”

While an increase in state funding for school construction may be necessary to accommodate the growing number of students, some CHS students believe the money could be put to better use elsewhere.

“Population might be increasing but we cannot just throw money at building new schools,” junior Katie Kidney said. “There has to be an increase in hiring teachers as well.”

According to Principal Joan Benz, however, school construction funding is crucial for schools that need to be expanded or rebuilt.

“In order to have a good education program, there must be adequate space for everyone,” Benz said. “It is very important to have a healthy school climate in which students are going to learn.”

Despite the possible benefits of an increase in state funding for school construction, it is unlikely that any resolution will come in the near future.

According to a March 7 Bethesda Now article, the proposed bill does not have enough votes from delegations outside of Montgomery, Baltimore and Prince George’s Counties, and getting the necessary support for an increase in funding could take years.

While the odds may be against them, Montgomery County and state officials continue to push for the legislation that they believe is crucial to maintaining MCPS’ strong reputation.

“If you ever go into a school that is run down and not well maintained, that environment affects everybody around,” Leggett said. “The state of Maryland is the top school system in the entire country, and a good part of that emanates right here from MCPS. We have the kinds of schools that people are proud of.”