Thank you for this opportunity to explain why increased school construction funding is so critical to Montgomery County. I’m proud to be here today with my colleagues from Prince George’s and Baltimore counties to talk about the future.
Montgomery County has a school system known for its excellence and remarkable for its diversity – diversity in ethnicity and also in income levels. It has contributed to our economic vitality – and been essential to our ability to attract and retain an educated workforce that helps us recruit and retain business and industry. We didn’t get here by accident. But, we won’t stay here – and continue to excel – without hard work on the County AND the State level.
We are in the midst of a looming crisis. Our school system has grown by more than 2,000 students a year over the past four years. For the 12 years that began in FY07, projected enrollment increases by 25,000 students – starting in the elementary schools and rippling through our middle and high schools. That’s almost a 20 percent increase. Nearly half of our schools are projected to have seat deficits by the 2018 to 2019 school year.
I have worked mightily to fund our school construction and school maintenance needs over the past seven years – even under the shadow and the challenges of the Great Recession – by increasing the County contribution to school construction by 36 percent over my first eight years.
Our Senators and Delegates in Annapolis have fought the good fight and won increased State capital funding. But our enrollment wave and resultant capacity needs mean that we -- and the State – must do more. That’s why Montgomery County, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County are here today to send a very simple message: Our kids and families can’t afford for any of us to play “catch up.” We already have major capacity challenges. If we don’t invest now, we won’t be able to create the capacity we need to handle what’s ahead.
Our three jurisdictions represent 44 percent of the State’s students – and 46 percent of the State’s students who are eligible for free and reduced meals. What is good for us is also good for the State – and for its other jurisdictions. The State of Maryland is one of the top education states in the nation --and we want to keep it that way.
That’s why we are asking you to pass HB 1323. This investment in education is an investment in job creation that will long benefit the County and the State after all of us are gone. This initiative is also about investing now for our future. The crisis is now. The need is plain. We owe it to our students, our parents and our community to respond to this challenge today.