Governor Martin O'Malley today announced $336 million in school construction funding and upgrades for Maryland's public schools in the proposed FY2014 budget. This funding continues the O'Malley-Brown Administration's commitment to modernizing and rebuilding Maryland's public schools. In addition, the funding will create, support and leverage an estimated 8,199 jobs.
Despite making more cuts to state spending than any previous administration, the O'Malley-Brown Administration has chosen to make targeted investments in priorities like education and job creation. The proposed budget will include $325 million for the Public School Construction Program, including $25 million for air conditioning in schools. Additionally, the Administration will include $6.1 million for the Aging Schools Program and $4.5 million in Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs) that provide investors with federal tax credits in lieu of tax free interest payments to make improvements to schools serving a significant number of students from low-income families. The total school construction commitment under the O'Malley-Brown Administration to replace temporary learning shacks with modern, state-of-the-art 21st Century classrooms now stands at nearly $2.4 billion.
"In 2006, Anthony and I visited temporary learning shacks where there should have been modern classrooms, and pledged to do everything in our power to put our children in state-of-the-art, 21st century schools," said Governor O'Malley. "Our balanced approach of cuts and targeted investments has enabled us to build the #1 public school system, invest in our key priorities, and at the same time put us on track to eliminate the structural deficit."
"Even in the most difficult economic times, we have far exceeded our $250 million goal for school construction funding," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. "Education and school construction funding continue to be our top priority and I commend the Administration on their ongoing commitment to our children."
"The best investment that we can make in our State's future is in our children," said Speaker Michael E. Busch. "The commitment that we have made in school construction not only improves the learning environment for the State's future workforce, but also puts construction workers, one of the hardest hit employment sectors in the State, back on the job."
"The $25 million we're investing in air conditioning for our schools will help move us towards our goal of having every child in Maryland learning in a building that meets their needs," said Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown. "Air conditioning isn't a luxury, it's a necessity that helps fight against mold and allergens in the air, which can cause students to miss class because of asthma or severe allergies. And we won't rest until all 1,396 of Maryland's schools are safe places for our children to learn."
Since taking office, the O'Malley-Brown Administration has remained committed to public education. For four years in a row, Maryland's public schools have been certified #1 in the nation by Education Week Magazine. In the 2011-2012 school year, 83 percent of kindergartners entered school fully ready to learn. Maryland elementary school students achieved their highest MSA scores ever in both Reading and Math, while middle school students achieved their highest scores ever in Math. Maryland's students are #1 in AP success for the fourth consecutive year according to The College Board, and high school students are graduating at the highest rate in history. Together, with Maryland's hard working educators, the dropout rate has been driven down 12 percent since 2006. To give children the tools to compete and win the jobs of tomorrow, the Administration is nearly halfway toward its goal to increase the number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) college graduates 40 percent by 2015.