Leggett plans cut in school construction funding
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett proposed the first cut to school construction funding in more than 20 years, delaying middle and high school modernizations amid an enrollment boom that is straining the school system.
Leggett’s $4.21 billion capital improvement program proposal offers $1.36 billion to Montgomery County Public Schools, a 3 percent cut from two years ago
and 9 percent less than the $1.49 billion that Superintendent Joshua Starr requested.
Leggett’s proposal covers the cost of two new elementary schools, one new middle school, six elementary school additions and one middle school addition. But Leggett recommended one-year delays for middle and high school modernizations, which replace part or all of aging school buildings.
“Secondary school modernizations have been very expensive — making it challenging to meet other critical schools capital needs,” he wrote in a memo to the County Council. He said officials must “revisit the costly practice of ‘tear down and rebuild’ modernizations.”
School enrollment has boomed by nearly 9,000 students since 2007, topping out at a record 146,497. By 2017, the school system expects to be serving more than 156,000 students, with most growth occurring in the early grades; 90 percent of the district’s 350 portable classrooms are at elementary schools.
School officials say the growth of young students is caused by the economy — fewer people are selling their homes or sending their children to private school — as well as shifting demographics that have drawn in young Hispanic families with higher birthrates than the white population.
But school board members said resources for older students are just as needed.
“As the wave moves through, we can’t build fast enough. … There’s no way we’re going to have enough seats,” board member Laura Berthiaume said.
MCPS spokesman Dana Tofig said in an email that schools up for modernization are in buildings that are “falling into disrepair.”
“Additionally, modernizations in most cases increase the capacity of the school, which is a major issue across the district,” Tofig said.
MCPS is negotiating with the state for more construction funding after Maryland offered the school system $24 million, less than the $40 million the county was expecting. Gov. Martin O’Malley has since proposed a $350 million increase in school construction funding, which the school board is hoping will offset the $16 million gap.
The council has scheduled a public hearing on construction funding for MCPS on Feb. 9.
- Area schools try to fix middle-school woes
- Governor Quinn Receives First P-20 Council Report – Report Offers Recommendations to Improve Academic Success of Illinois’ Students
- School bond measures: 1 passing, 1 failing in early count
- Governor Quinn Announces Illinois Jobs Now! Capital Funding for South Suburban College – Community College Will Receive More Than $2 Million for Energy-Efficient Repairs and Upgrades
- Sacramento County’s Top Teachers Named California Teachers of the Year