Montgomery council president believes there’s still hope for school funding bill -- Gazette.Net


Despite fading hopes among state lawmakers for its passage, the president of the Montgomery County Council hasn’t given up on the idea of getting a bill that would provide more state money to ease crowding in the county’s schools.

“Stranger things have happened in Annapolis,” Council President Craig L. Rice (D- Dist. 2) of Germantown said Monday.

Rice said he’s had several conversations with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) about school funding and asked Brown to take a more visible role on the issue.

Montgomery’s entire delegation to the General Assembly has backed legislation that would provide up to $20 million a year outside of the normal capital budget process for school systems with 100,000 or more students and a triple-A bond rating.

On March 6, Brown, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, sent a letter to the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee supporting the legislation.

Fellow gubernatorial candidates Douglas F. Gansler and Heather R. Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park have also expressed support for Montgomery getting more money for school expansion.

Sen. Nancy King (D-Dist. 39) of Montgomery Village has introduced another bill that would qualify schools systems with three consecutive years of enrollment growth of more than 150 percent of the statewide average for a state matching grant for school construction projects.

Rice was among the Montgomery officials who testified at a March 6 hearing in Annapolis on the county’s need for more funding.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) also testified and has joined the county executives from Prince George’s and Baltimore counties to call for more funding to relieve overcrowding in schools in some of the state’s largest counties.

Rice said much of the opposition to the plan seems to be coming from rural jurisdictions who want their own needs addressed before the larger counties get more money.

It’s “unfortunate” that some jurisdictions see Montgomery’s needs as competing with those of rural jurisdictions, Rice said.

Montgomery, Baltimore and Prince George’s came up with a plan to address their needs, and rural areas are welcome do the same, he said.

According to county officials, Montgomery’s schools grow by about 2,000 students a year. By 2019, the county projects enrollment will have increased by 25,000 students in 12 years.