$3.5 bil­lion school con­struc­tion ini­tia­tive an­nounced

The Avenue News - - SOLUTIONS -

Gov. Larry Ho­gan an­nounced a ma­jor ini­tia­tive to make a his­toric investment in school con­struc­tion projects across the state. Called the Build­ing Op­por­tu­nity Fund, the gov­er­nor un­veiled plans to sub­mit leg­is­la­tion dur­ing the 2019 ses­sion of the Mary­land General As­sem­bly to pro­vide $1.9 bil­lion in new school con­struc­tion fund­ing over five years. This pro­posed new fund­ing is in ad­di­tion to the $1.6 bil­lion in pub­lic school con­struc­tion fund­ing cur­rently in­cluded in the state’s five year Cap­i­tal Im­prove­ment Pro­gram, bring­ing the to­tal pro­posed state investment to more than $3.5 bil­lion over five years.

“Ed­u­ca­tion has al­ways been our ad­min­is­tra­tion’s top pri­or­ity and to­day’s an­nounce­ment rep­re­sents the largest investment in school con­struc­tion — ever — in Mary­land his­tory,” said Gov. Ho­gan. “I be­lieve very strongly that ev­ery sin­gle child in Mary­land de­serves ac­cess to a world-class ed­u­ca­tion re­gard­less of what neigh­bor­hood they hap­pen to grow up in, and an im­por­tant part of that is mak­ing sure that all of our stu­dents are ed­u­cated in fa­cil­i­ties that are mod­ern, safe, and ef­fi­cient which pro­vide them with an en­vi­ron­ment that en­cour­ages growth and learn­ing.”

The new fund­ing will come from rev­enue bonds funded by casino gam­ing rev­enues. Leg­is­la­tion passed with the gov­er­nor’s sup­port dur­ing the 2018 ses­sion cre­ated a bal­lot ini­tia­tive to en­sure casino rev­enues are used to pro­vide ad­di­tional fund­ing for Mary­land schools. The bal­lot ref­er­en­dum was ap­proved by nearly 90 per­cent of Mary­land vot­ers in the Novem­ber elec­tion, and will re­sult in an ad­di­tional $4.4 bil­lion in school fund­ing. The ref­er­en­dum spec­i­fies “pub­lic school con­struc­tion and pub­lic school cap­i­tal im­prove­ment” as one of the tar­geted uses for this ad­di­tional fund­ing.

Gov. Ho­gan will sub­mit the Build­ing Op­por­tu­nity Act early in the 2019 leg­isla­tive ses­sion, which will pro­vide fund­ing to cover more than 90 per­cent of the projects re­quested by lo­cal school sys­tems from 2020 to 2024 if en­acted. The leg­is­la­tion will give the Mary­land Sta­dium Author­ity over­sight of these ad­di­tional school con­struc­tion funds, and in­clude ac­count­abil­ity mea­sures.

The new con­struc­tion projects are es­ti­mated to cre­ate more than 27,000 new jobs over the five year con­struc­tion pe­riod.

The Build­ing Op­por­tu­nity Act will be closely mod­eled af­ter the highly suc­cess­ful 21st Cen­tury School Build­ings Pro­gram cur­rently un­der­way in Bal­ti­more City, which is pro­vid­ing stu­dents with the healthy, ef­fi­cient, and mod­ern school build­ings they de­serve. The Ho­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion opened five newly ren­o­vated cam­puses in Bal­ti­more City in Au­gust 2018, bring­ing the pro­gram to­tal to nine im­proved schools with 28 more cur­rently in the con­struc­tion or plan­ning stages.

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