A familiar ritual played out in the Maryland State House on Wednesday as county school officials appealed to the governor, comptroller and treasurer for money to fund school construction projects.
Jocularly known around Annapolis as the “Beg-a-Thon” but rechristened the “Hope-a-Thon” by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), the appeals to the three members who sit on the Board of Public Works take on more importance this year as O’Malley’s budget proposes a near-record $372 million for school construction.
With the budget process accelerating, participants flocked to the state capital to compete for limited funds above an initial allocation of $250 million that will be divvied up among the state’s 23 counties and Baltimore.
Speakers at times tried to outdo one another in describing the challenges faced by schools in their districts.
“If you want to talk about old, we can give you old,” said Keith Scroggins, chief operating officer for Baltimore’s school system, in what seemed like a direct response to a Caroline County official who had described the construction needs of a school built in 1971.
“Booker T. Washington, one of our (middle) schools, was built in 1895,” Scroggins said.
O’Malley also chimed in, facetiously referring to schools built “way back in the 1970s.”
“We call that a modern building,” he said.
Comptroller Peter Franchot quizzed the presenters about whether their schools offer a stand-alone financial literacy course for graduating seniors, which is an important issue to Franchot.
“You get bonus points,” Franchot told a representative of Frederick County’s school system, which requires financial literacy education.
County testimonies started Wednesday morning and stretched well into the afternoon, prompting O’Malley to initiate a sandwich break and ask attendees whether they’d be offended if he ate while they spoke.