The Workgroup to Study State Participation in Public School Construction Funding held its first meeting on November 23. The Workgroup, an initiative by the Public School Construction Program, will examine all aspects of the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Ancillary programs like Aging Schools or Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs) will not be reviewed. The Workgroup will focus on three main areas: (1) the best method to determine need; (2) project eligibility and prioritization; and (3) equity in funding distribution.
Workgroup members include representatives from State and county governments and local school systems. County members include:
- Allegany County Commission President Elect Mike McKay
- Anne Arundel County Special Assistant for BRAC/Education Robert Leib
- Harford County Executive David Craig
- Cecil County Commission President Elect (TBD)
- Prince George’s County Executive Elect Rushern Baker
- MACo Associate Director Les Knapp
In terms of need determination, the Workgroup noted three possible methods: (1) let local education agencies (LEAs) make a needs request; (2) take the square footage of schools, broken down by the age of the facility and allocate dollars based on that; and (3) conduct a needs analysis to determine statewide cost estimates necessary to bring school facilities up to current standards for new construction. The 2004 Task Force to Study Public School Facilities (also known as the Kopp Commission) conducted a needs analysis and set a recommendation of $250 million in annual State public school construction funding through FY 2013. MACo has supported the Kopp Commission recommendation and would likely favor a similar analysis to determine current need.
The Workgroup also discussed potential methods for having an “equitable” funding allocation. Mr. Knapp and several local school board representatives cautioned that what might be equitable from one county or school system’s perspective may not be equitable to another. Ultimately, the Workgroup decided to consider the creation of a distribution formula for school construction funding, similar to formula used by the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools (Thornton) Act. The formula would allow for a discretionary funding component.
The Workgroup will not begin substantive deliberations until after the 2011 Session.