An overview of MACo’s advocacy on school construction and capital budget legislation in the 2019 General Assembly.
County governments partner with the State of Maryland to fund school construction projects throughout Maryland. K-12 school renovation and construction projects make up a substantial portion of any county’s capital budget, and the needs of Maryland students are consistently a high priority.
In 2019, Commitment to Education was one of MACo’s three lead initiatives. MACo’s advocacy on the Governor’s Building Opportunity Act of 2019 and the General Assembly’s Build to Learn Act of 2019 and other school construction legislation emphasized the need for a strong State commitment to school construction and efficient and effective use of funding. Unfortunately, neither of the two large funding initiatives above – both of which represented multi-billion dollar state school construction commitments – passed the General Assembly this year. There is the hope and expectation, however, that the General Assembly will pass a large funding package in the 2020 legislative session.
Follow links below for more coverage on Conduit Street and MACo’s Legislative Database.
Build to Learn Act of 2019
MACo supported the Build to Learn Act of 2019’s large infusion of state capital funding into school construction, but raised concerns regarding the accessibility of the program for all counties through a “support with amendments” position. In addition to providing $3 billion in funding, the legislation would have provided a greater share of state funding for school construction projects in small jurisdictions, and targeted certain funds for schools with a high number of relocatable classrooms and increasing enrollment.
The Build to Learn Act of 2019 was passed by the House of Delegates in an amended form that allocated funding by percentage to certain counties. The bill did not move out of its committee in the Senate, but it seems likely that another school construction funding initiative will return next year.
MACo also supported Building Opportunity Act of 2019 with amendments. This bill was part of the Governor’s legislative package and was the 2019 legislation to propose a large funding infusion for the State’s schools. The Building Opportunity Act of 2019, and additional elements of the Governor’s budget would have provided $3.5 billion for schools over the next five years in part through a broad-based program available to all counties funded with casino revenues.
Other K-12 School Construction Bills
MACo supported with amendments a bill to allow county school boards to create regional schools through MOU. MACo presented an amendment to require county governing body approval of any MOU. The amendment was accepted and the amended bill passed the full Senate. The House amended the bill further, making it apply only to Carroll and Howard counties, and requiring a statewide study of the issue. Ultimately, Establishing Innovative Regional Schools passed the General Assembly in its amended form, as applying to only Howard and Carroll Counties, and maintaining that counties must approve the memoranda to establish regional schools.
MACo supported a bill to recognize the additional space required to accommodate and support learning for English language students in the K-12 public school system through an update to the State’s maximum square foot allowance for school construction. MACo stated that this legislation could provide an additional 30 square feet or more for English Language Learner students to accommodate the space needs for language instruction. When State allocations do not recognize needs, county governments must support the full cost of additional space requirements. Ultimately, the novel approach of Maximum Gross Area Allowance for English Learner Students did not advance as the bill received an unfavorable report from its Committee. MACo will continue to advocate for this and other updates to the State’s formula through administrative processes.
MACo supported a bill to allow some added flexibility from the State’s mandate to apply State prevailing wage laws and regulations to any public school construction project that receives even 25% of its funding from the State. MACo stated SB 40’s modifications to the State’s prevailing wage law would balance the State’s school construction needs and goals with other policy interests by raising the threshold for prevailing wage back to the same applied to other capital projects. Ultimately, Prevailing Wage – Modifications did not move out of its Committee. The General Assembly has not made any efforts to modify this law, despite several efforts over the past few years.
Art in Capital Projects
MACo successfully sought amendments to legislation that originally required county governments to follow a certain process for consideration of public art in any type of county structure, including public safety and public works facilities. MACo worked with the Department of Commerce to clarify that the legislation would only affect structures funded entirely by the State, or by the State and a private entity. Ultimately, Capital Projects – Inclusion of Public Art passed in its amended format, excluding county projects.
For more on school construction and capital budget legislation tracked by MACo during the 2019 legislative session, click here.