Conflict and Consistency in County, School Board Views on School Construction

The Maryland Association of Boards of Education testimony on the 21st Century School Facilities Act conflicts with MACo’s in some areas.

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MACo works closely with advocates from MABE, but positions of the organizations may differ. The School Construction bill provides one example.

On March 8, the 21st Century School Facilities Act was heard in the House Appropriations Committee. Both MACo and MABE took a position of support with amendments, speaking in favor of the bill overall, but providing some suggestions on concerns.

Commonly held areas of agreement on the legislation included that the State maintain strong fiscal support for school construction, that the State continue to fund systemic maintenance projects, and that local governments continue to have authority over school construction priorities.

However, there were also differences.

For example, MACo supported the legislation’s requirement for the State to adopt incentives for use of prototype schools, including streamlined regulatory review for repeating the same school design. MABE, however, states:

. . . the bill’s proposal to incentivize the use of prototypes schools raises questions about the intended outcomes regarding school cost and quality. Many, if not most, school systems have utilized prototype school designs to reduce cost and staff workload in developing new designs for similar facilities. However, all of these decision shave been made by local school systems and not under the imposition of state regulations. Therefore MABE request an amendment to remove this section of the bill; by striking the amendments to Section 5-309 of the Education Article.

MACo also supported the provisions of the legislation that included expanded authorities for counties and school boards to pursue alternative financing for school construction. However, MABE opposes some of the provisions. From MABE’s testimony:

. . . MABE requests amendments to remove references in the proposed amendments to Section 4-114 of the Education Article to counties or county revenue authorities holding title to school facility properties. Similarly, in Section 4-126, the bill introduces amendments to redefine public private partnerships for purposes of design-construct-operate-maintain-finance projects as being controlled by county governments. MABE requests amendments to remove reference to counties, and county revenue authorities, as entities with which school systems would contract.

These and other areas may be sticking points over the next week, as a joint legislative work group considers amendments to the legislation.

For more comparisons and contrasts, see MACo’s testimony on the 21st Century School Facilities Act and MABE’s testimony on the 21st Century School Facilities Act.