School Construction Workgroup Considers Deficiency Scores Weighting and Calculations

Complicated weighting formula is dissected and discussed at the meeting of the Work Group on the Assessment and Funding of School Facilities.

Yesterday, members of the Work Group of the Assessment and Funding of School Facilities, a group created by the General Assembly’s 2018 21st Century School Facilities Act, met to continue conversations on assessing and funding school facilities in Maryland. Robert Gorrell, the Executive Director of the Interagency Commission on School Construction, led Work Group members through the proposed formula that would identify facilities with the highest deficiency score.

A main goal of the meeting was to consider a proposed weighting system formula, a formula very similar to one Gorrell used in New Mexico where he directed a statewide school construction program previously. In Maryland, school construction funding has been allocated via locally-determined priorities and needs, which school boards submit to the State on an annual basis and as part of multi-year capital plans. Local governments must match state funding for eligibility in most cases, so coordination with local planning is critical.

Maryland has nearly 1,400 active public K-12 school facilities that cover 140 million gross square feet. With an estimated asset value of $55.3 billion, state schools are valued higher than the Maryland state highway system.

As presented by Gorrell, in the proposed system there would be nine categories with specified weights that would be calculated into the score with “Immediate Code/Life/Health Threat” being prioritized as number one with a weight of 3.5.

A new proposal for weighting public school construction funding. Currently, funding is driven by locally-determined priorities and needs.
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The draft formula’s goal is to help the state and local governments determine the priority of funding for school construction in Maryland with the result being a higher quality across the state. It was repeated many times during yesterday’s Work Group meeting that the assessment for school construction funding will only be used to define and identify deficiencies, not solutions. The assessment will represent the magnitude of the program and the percentage away that a school facility is from being perfectly sufficient.

Work Group members asked a multitude of questions and voiced concerns over the complexity of the proposed formula. Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner spoke up about concerns that there were not incentives encouraging local school systems to design schools with lower total cost of ownership in mind.  Gardner represents the Maryland Association of Counties on the Work Group, and also represented county governments on the 21st Century School Facilities Commission that envisioned this assessment review process.

After much discussion, Maryland Superintendent Karen Salmon, who is also the Chair of the Work Group, asked that members be ready to make decisions on the formula during the next meeting on September 25.

Meeting materials from August 28 are available online.