MCCPTA Testimony

The Superintendent’s Recommended FY 2007 Capital Budget and FY 2007-2012 Capital Improvements Program

November 9, 2005

 

Good evening, President O’Neill, Members of the Board and Dr. Weast. I am Cindy Kerr, President of MCCPTA here to deliver my last CIP testimony after 15 years in PTA’s; as an involved parent, a PTA President, a Cluster Coordinator, and two years as MCCPTA President. During those years, I, along with many other PTA leaders, have asked for you to address the critical capital needs of our schools. We’ve lobbied for more money to build schools, modernize our outdated ones, reduce the number of portables, ensure that all of our buildings have healthy air quality, are free from lead and mold and that they have clean functioning bathrooms, along with the expectation that all have fire safety, safe access, and are secure. We want it all – for each school to be safe, secure, and modern. The Superintendent’s Recommended FY 07-12 Budget shows that you are listening to our concerns and we thank you. MCCPTA supports the six-year budget of $1, 172 billion and we ask you to “Keep It Up and Maintain Our School CIP”

 

We’ve been before you many times to ask for more dollars to be allotted for health issues. You heard just this week from a school with a serious mold problem, and from the Superintendent that are many schools in need of a “full-fix” from recurring mold. We must find the money to alleviate mold in every school to make good on the priority the Board has assigned to health and safety projects. Additionally, we must provide timely lead remediation, and get moving on the restroom renovations. Along with the increased allocations for lead abatement, we need to see a plan and a schedule for our affected schools.

 

We have pleaded for funding to keep up the projects that provide for safe access, fire safety and for security; often as a result of sad story or preventable situations. We’re pleased to see funding that keeps up with these issues. We need to continue to educate our parents and community on a number of safety issues, including safe access around schools by cars and buses, and to ensure pedestrian safety.

 

We’ve continually asked for more dollars to be spent on capital maintenance, such as PLAR projects, HVAC, and other systematic life cycle replacements. Too many schools have aging systems that impact the academic environment in their facilities—faulty heating and air conditioning systems, leaky roofs, or warped floors. We appreciate the increase in maintenance dollars in this budget to keep up with increasing needs as our facilities age. MCCPTA asked our delegates again this year to rank their most pressing facilities concerns; a number of capital maintenance projects were very high in the top four advocacy concerns. Additionally, summer cluster comments on CIP issues contained vast lists of capital maintenance needs which you will hear about during testimony. We’ll be back to ask for more maintenance dollars in the operating budget for supplies and workers. We must have the ways and means to maintain our schools.

 

We’ve strongly lobbied for long-range planning and now see the planning for a central area high school, preparation for solutions to overcrowding in several other areas of the county, and for revising educational specifications that reflect future program needs. We support the planning for additional special programs, such as a second math/science high school magnet but urge that school leadership and parents have ample opportunity to comment on special program development or placement of these types of programs in or out of a school. We ask that parents always be included in important decisions such as site selection, program specifications, building design and boundary issues. 

 

We must continue to work together to plan to keep up with the growth in some areas of our county while balancing program needs and changing demographics throughout the county. Overall flat enrollment is true for the system but enrollment at many schools reflects sustained growth. We must maintain acceptable school size with permanent seats for every child. For many years, we’ve begged for more seats to relieve overcrowding and see more schools being constructed including seven new or reopened schools and 14 additions. This new CIP has even more addition projects that will alleviate the need for a number of portables. We must reduce the number of relocatables and would like to see a clear rubric for the prioritization of additions.

 

We need to keep up with the need for solutions to core facility deficits while schools await modernization or as program needs change. Thank you for creating a new line item for Building Modifications and Program Improvements; we’re sure we can help spend the money. We also need to maintain the commitment to housing state-mandated full-day kindergarten and early childhood initiatives without additional state support.

 

We’ve asked for modernizations to be completed sooner, and for your commitment to maintaining the schedule. You will hear from cluster coordinators who will encourage you to accelerate this extended schedule as too many children attend schools that are not safe, secure, nor modern while waiting their turn to be updated, expanded, and with all systems fully functional. Additionally, we ask that the remaining 37 schools be assessed for FACT scores and added to the list.

 

It is critical that in order to maintain the level funding for approved FY 05-2010 CIP projects, a 20% increase in this budget is factored in to keep up with increased costs in construction materials and labor. Any reduction in funding will mean delays of projects. We know you understand this critical aspect of the budget process.

 

We urge you to maintain the current schedule to build a gym in every elementary school that does not currently have one.

 

We thank you for listening in the past and for finding solutions and funding and ask again that you listen tonight as our cluster coordinators illustrate our theme, Keep It Up- Maintain the CIP with the stories of their schools’ needs.

 

We’d also urge you to follow your process and listen to the cluster coordinators and individual PTA’s as they testify about the recommended boundary studies and Supplement A.

 

Public testimony is a critical part of the CIP process, both for the opportunity for us to speak to you about our cluster issues but also for the rest of the county to hear about the needs and successes. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in FAA-RA workgroup, and promise to thoughtfully and thoroughly review the policy and regulations so that together they continue the best of the past policy: clear precise language, predictable processes, and community involvement while incorporating the needed updates.

 

We thank you for listening to us, and are confident that you will support the Superintendent’s Recommended Budget so that we maintain the aggressive approach to building, fixing, and making sure that all schools are safe, secure and modern for every child in Montgomery County Public Schools. That’s the easy part; the hard part will be getting it fully funded this year.

 

We know that the County Council will have many demands on somewhat limited dollars in this pre-election year. We’re counting on your support and communication with the Council to get all that we need. You can count on us to support your efforts for funding with our continued advocacy for facilities that are safe, secure, modern and have enough space for every child to be successful in today’s educational programs.

 

We will continue to support your efforts to obtain State funding, as we know that a critical piece to this budget is state aid. The FY07 state Capital Improvements Program request for MCPS is $117.9 million. It’s a huge request and we will work along with you to ensure that legislators have the means to approve adequate state funding for school construction.

 

We thank you for your early support of a $400 million state funding level for FY 07 to provide the state’s share of school construction funding as identified in the 2004 Public Schools Facilities Act. Last year, we supported legislation to increase public school construction to $250 million and wrote countless letters to the Governor, and our legislators. Like you, we made a number of trips to Annapolis to plead our case and show our support for the legislators who rallied around this cause. This year, we’re starting early to provide opportunities to tell our stories to our legislators. Attached is our first of many letters to our elected officials.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on behalf of our children and the schools that they attend and the parents who work with us to ensure that these facilities are safe, secure, and modern. We are confident that your goal is the same and will work with us to Keep It Up- and Maintain the CIP.

 

 

 

                                                                           November 10, 2005

Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.

Office of the Governor

State House

Annapolis, MD 21401-1925

 

Dear Governor Ehrlich,

 

            As citizens of Maryland, we believe that the education of the states children is one of our highest priorities and that this must be reflected in state school capital improvement funding. We urge you to support a $400 million state funding level for FY 2007 to provide for the states hare of the funding needed to address school facility needs throughout the state as identified in the 2004 Public School Facilities Act. We support consideration of the expansion of the states bonding capacity to meet the increased needs for school facilities in Maryland.

            We understand the constraints of balancing the state budget and the many demands for limited dollars. However, we also believe that throughout the state, students should attend school in safe, secure, and modern facilities. We know that school facilities are integral to program delivery. Unfortunately, many schools are aging rapidly without adequate resources to repair and modernize them. Throughout the state, school enrollment is increasing and diversifying, and we need to plan quickly to provide capacity to accommodate this growth. In Montgomery County, as elsewhere, many of our school buildings are overcrowded and need expansion, without electrical capacity to use technology adequately and need modernization, do not have proper spaces for programs such as science labs, or just have a list of needed repairs to major systems. The complete list of needs is long, and relief for many students is years away.

 

            In Montgomery County, our local leaders have invested in our school capital improvement program for years, and aggressively so in the last few years. Yet, when our county submits projects eligible for millions in state aid ($117.9 million this year), we can receive only a fraction of our requests due to the limit on the total amount of State funding allocated for school construction. We do not believe that our countys needs are any different or more important from other school districts in Maryland. These projects will take State Aid to become a reality.

           

            We believe it is imperative that you provide adequate funding for school construction for all children in Maryland. We urge you to consider additional revenue sources, such as increased bonding authority to achieve this goal.

 

                                                                                                Sincerely,

 

 

                                                                                               Cindy Kerr,

                                                                                                                              MCCPTA President