Montgomery plans rally in Annapolis for school construction funding

Delayed by snow last month, Montgomery County parents, students and elected officials are regrouping for a rally in Annapolis on Thursday to call for more state construction funding for Maryland’s fastest-growing school system.

Montgomery’s PTA leaders are hoping to fill as many as six buses for the event, which includes a rally on the mall, visits to lawmakers, a reception and other activities. It coincides with a rescheduled Maryland PTA Night in Annapolis.

Janette Gilman, president of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, said she expects 300 people or more and hopes the group’s message about Montgomery’s crowded schools and critical funding needs will get through.

“The bottom line is we don’t have room in our classrooms, and we don’t have money locally to cover it all, and we need state help,” Gilman said.

Thursday’s planned rally comes amid a shifting political outlook. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) acknowledged to a Post reporter last week that it may take more than one year to secure passage of a bill that would make counties eligible for up $20 million a year in extra state money that could be used to leverage borrowing for school construction.

Gilman said the Montgomery’s advocates will don yellow hard hats and do all they can to make Montgomery’s case. They expect to be joined Thursday by several school board members, four county council members, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr and Leggett.

“We are going to make a statement,” Gilman said. “If it doesn’t happen this year, we will be back.”

Elected leaders in Montgomery have long complained that the school system accounts for 17 percent of the state’s student enrollment but has received about 11 percent of recent state construction funding. Montgomery should get its “fair share,” they have argued.

But in seeking state help, they have also pointed to swelling enrollment numbers. Montgomery ranks as Maryland’s largest school system, with 151,300 students and an enrollment surge of 14,000 students since 2007. Planners say enrollment is expected to continue to climb in coming years.

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
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