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Leaders of Maryland’s largest jurisdictions come to Annapolis to push for $2.2B school construction bill

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young talks Thursday with reporters in Annapolis about the need for school buildings to replace those that have fallen into disrepair.
Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young talks Thursday with reporters in Annapolis about the need for school buildings to replace those that have fallen into disrepair.(Luke Broadwater)

Leaders of Maryland’s eight largest local jurisdictions came to Annapolis Thursday to push for a massive increase in school construction funding.

They included Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr., Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, all Democrats, who joined Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, a Republican, in testifying in favor of the “Built To Learn” act, which would send $2.2 billion extra to local governments to help pay for renovating and building schools.

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“Baltimore City has the oldest inventory of school buildings in the state of Maryland,” Young testified in the House of Delegates’ Appropriations Committee. “Some schools lack heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. Others do not have potable water because they are old enough to have been constructed with lead water pipes.”

The additional funding would “allow us to keep our promise and ensure that our students have the healthy, modern school facilities they need and that they deserve," Young said.

Democrats and Republicans are locked in a bitter fight over whether to back the so-called Kirwan Commission’s recommendations to increase school funding by $4 billion annually to pay for programs like expanded prekindergarten.

But there is no such partisan fight over the school construction measure.

The legislation was sponsored by House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Democrat, but it also has the support of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

“Schools in every county in Maryland are in desperate need of renovations," Jones testified Thursday. "Realistically, we can’t educate kids in substandard conditions.”

Hogan’s deputy legislative officer, Mathew Palmer, wrote in submitted testimony that while Hogan has his own, similar version of the bill, he favors Jones’ legislation, as well.

“Our administration’s legislation has the same goal of meeting our school construction needs in the state and this legislation very closely models the bill we filed this year and last," Palmer wrote. "That is why we are very supportive of House Speaker Jones’ efforts to move this important issue forward.”

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As the testimony got underway, the governor’s press office sent an email with a “Bipartisanship Alert” heading, showing cartoon stick-figure of Hogan on a purple surfboard.

The $2.2 billion would come from bonds issued by the Maryland Stadium Authority. The bonds would be paid back over 30 years using $125 million a year in casino revenues set aside in a so-called education “lockbox.”

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