The Washington Post

Montgomery leaders prepare to push Annapolis for school construction dollars

Montgomery officials will gather Thursday to formally kick off what County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) regards as his top legislative priority for next year’s Maryland General Assembly: construction funding for a school system squeezed to the seams by surging enrollment.

Leggett and Montgomery’s school leadership are seeking a deal similar to one the city of Baltimore secured from lawmakers and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) earlier this year. Under that plan, the state, city and school system will contribute $60 million annually to support $1 billion in construction bonds to rebuild or renovate dozens of Baltimore schools. The 10-year effort will be overseen by the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Montgomery’s enrollment has surged by 14,000 since 2007, and officials are anticipating another 11,000 over the next six years. The current student population is 151,607, a rise of 2,800 students over 2012 — the equivalent of four elementary schools. Montgomery has 17 percent of Maryland’s student enrollment, but the county typically gets about 11 percent of state construction funding, officials said.

Earlier this week, schools Superintendent Joshua Starr proposed a $1.55 billion capital improvement budget for the fiscal year beginning next July.

Montgomery would seek $20 million from the state to leverage its own $40 million outlay. These funds would supplement the county’s share of new state authorizations for school construction. The $60 million would support bonds of up to $750 million, to fund construction over the next five years, county officials said.

Among those scheduled to join Leggett Thursday morning at Julius West Middle School in Rockville are Starr, County Council President Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty) County Council member and Education Committee Chair Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) School Board President Christopher S. Barclay and members of the county’s state legislative delegation.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.

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