ACLU Calls for Study of State’s Public School Construction Funding

In a report released today, the American Civil Liberties Union is citing inequities in the way the state funds the public school construction program.  Download the full report.

In today’s  Baltimore Sun story :

The American Civil Liberties Union says that despite state increases in school construction dollars in recent years, many city schools are still deteriorating and at current funding levels it would take 50 years for them to be in good condition. The report argues that because the state does not take into account each district’s needs and ability to fund projects locally, school construction funding lacks equity.

David G. Lever, executive director of the Maryland Public School Construction Program, says there is equity in the state funding. Every school system has complex needs, and nearly every school system has a gap between its need for school construction dollars and what it gets, he said.

“One district may have aging schools that can be a condition of prior neglect. Another jurisdiction may have younger buildings, but have rapid student growth. In Montgomery, growth is just as serious an issue as the age of the buildings in Baltimore City,” Lever said. “We take a statewide view, and we have to balance out the complex needs of various jurisdictions.”

The study also cited the large gap between need and funding for Baltimore City Schools.

“We feel the pain,” said Keith Scroggins, the city schools’ chief operating officer. “When you look at the amount Baltimore City schools receives compared to what the other jurisdictions receive from their local jurisdictions, the difference is striking. That is not a criticism of Baltimore City. I am sure if they could borrow more, they would.”

The ACLU, which helped spearhead the push to get a more equitable spending formula for school operating budgets passed by the legislature in 2002, is now working to persuade state and city leaders to address what it believes is their constitutional responsibility to provide adequate facilities.

For the last 4 years, the state  has provided funding for public school construction at or above the $250 million annually as recommended in a 2004 Report by the Task Force to Study Public School Facilities (aka the Kopp Report) and as advocated consistently by MACo.

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