School Boards, Counties Raise Concerns with School Construction Proposals

MACo and the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) submitted letters to the School Facilities Assessment and Funding Workgroup for consideration before the Workgroup adopts its final recommendations on November 19, 2019. Both MACo and MABE identified several major policy concerns with the draft report’s recommendations and believe that the Workgroup should defer any final funding and policy recommendations until the statewide school facilities assessment has been completed.

MACo’s letter focused on a few strong points of concerns including the pending recommendation to depart from project-based funding to a formula-based approach when developing the CIP, the insufficiency of relocatable classrooms as adequate space, and reduced total cost of ownership incentives.

The letter from MACo reiterates that although there is concern with IAC recommendations, counties strongly support the State’s commitment to school construction funding:

MACo agrees that the State’s commitment to school construction funding needs to remain strong in order to best serve the modern needs of our schoolchildren, educators, and communities. We support the reference to increasing funding to at least $400 million annually.

State funding needs to recognize modern cost factors as Maryland achieves new environmental and energy standards, satisfies heightened needs for technology, ensures student safety, fulfills community resources needs, and integrates evolving teaching methods. Superficial comparisons between buildings created for the needs of yesterday versus those built for tomorrow only undermines the importance of the effort to recognize modern educational requirements and expectations. County governments share responsibility for financing K-12 school construction with the State and we all need effective formulas and guidelines in order to promote smart and effective funding for modern schools.

MABE’s letter is based off of input from local facilities planners from the majority of local school systems. The following statement includes MABE’s primary concerns:

The original intent of the 21st Century School Facilities Act of 2018 (HB 1783) was for the Funding Workgroup to have the facility assessment data available before they made recommendations about how to use the information. We, the facility planners, feel strongly that any recommendations about how to use the information for funding decisions should be delayed until the assessments are completed. Although local facility planners were asked for input on the categories and weighting factors, they were only given three weeks for that review. This is not a sufficient amount of time to consider the categories and the weightings. The use of hypothetical modeling makes it difficult to discuss and develop recommendations on policy changes. It would be more valuable to conduct one initial assessment in each local school system so that actual building scores can be reviewed by each school system. These initial assessments would give something tangible for each system to look at and compare with their local knowledge and expertise regarding their school facilities.

The five page letter goes into the depths of concern that MABE has with the IAC staff recommendations and possible pilot program due to come out of this Workgroup. The letter contains concern on areas such as school conditions, the Workgroup’s charge and timeline, total cost of ownership, category weights for the MDCI calculation, the maintenance incentive program, and a formula based CIP.

To learn more about the Workgroup, the 2020 Build to Learn Act, and how school construction funding will change in the future, join MACo at the Winter Conference session, Is a Shift in School Construction Funding on the Way?

  • Change Order: Is a Shift in School Construction Funding on the Way?
    • Description: The 2020 General Assembly Session promises to be a year of change for school construction. Major legislation, first introduced last year, is likely to return. At the same time, a statewide workgroup will recommend changes to school construction funding. Join this session for an update from leaders and experts in school construction on a topic that touches the core of constituent interests and county budgets across Maryland.
    • Speakers:
      • The Honorable Jan Gardner, County Executive, Frederick County
      • Perry Willis, Executive Director of Support Services, Cecil County Public Schools
      • Shawn Matlock, Director of Capital Programs, Prince George’s County Public Schools
    • Date/Time: Wednesday, December 4, 2019; 10:30 am – 11:30 am

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference: