The bill, which had bipartisan support, passed with a vote of 128 to 6. Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who included a similar proposal in his legislative agenda, praised the House of Delegates for approving the bill.
Under the measure, Baltimore City, Baltimore and Montgomery counties would each receive $420 million. Anne Arundel would get $250 million; Howard would receive $132 million; and Frederick would get $102 million. Prince George’s County would receive $25 million a year for as long as 30 years to supplement local investment as part of a public-private partnership to build new schools. Rural counties would share $230 million.
The investment is intended to address a growing backlog of school construction projects that has forced students in districts with surging enrollment to learn in portable classrooms and students in aging schools to learn in substandard environments.
“Counties across Maryland have been struggling with school construction needs for a long time,” said House Majority Leader Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery), who noted during the House debate that his son attends a school that was built for 500 students but has an 800-student population. “This is the single largest investment in school construction in the state’s history, and it sends a message to our kids that we care about them.”
Several Republican lawmakers who supported the measure raised concerns that smaller and more rural counties would share 11.5 percent of the bond revenue under the bill. They said they hoped that the Senate would address what they considered to be an arbitrary plan.
“This just doesn’t seem fair,” said Del. Matt Morgan (R-St. Mary’s). “We’ve had growth, too.”
In the past, the state has taken more of an incremental approach to school construction funding.
In 2013, a law was passed for Baltimore City, its school system and the state to contribute a combined $60 million annually for the next several decades for school construction. For the following two years, officials from Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties pushed for similar deals.
The school funding legislation, which heads to the Senate, is one of two major bills the General Assembly is considering this session that propose historic investments in public education.
On Monday, the legislature will hold a joint committee hearing to discuss overhauling the state’s public schools, eventually spending $4 billion a year to create a world-class education system in Maryland. The bill calls for expanding early-childhood education, increasing teacher pay and boosting spending on special education. It also calls for grants to schools with high poverty rates and for improving teacher standards.