Gov. wants $1.9B of casino revenue to go toward school construction

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Gov. Larry Hogan announces a bill for the Building Opportunity Fund flanked by Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, left, and Budget Secretary David Brinkley, right. Photo via Facebook Live.

Following the passage of a referendum mandating the state put revenue from casinos toward education, Maryland will have an additional $4.4 billion over the next decade to put toward education, Gov. Larry Hogan announced today.

Of that, Hogan wants to put an additional $1.9 billion over five years, from 2020 to 2024, toward school construction, bringing total state funding to $3.5 billion during that period. The governor will submit a bill during the legislative session to establish what he’s calling the Building Opportunity Fund.

“This represents the largest investment in school construction ever in Maryland history,” Hogan announced at a press conference at Highland Park Elementary School in Landover, Maryland.

School districts across Maryland have requested $3.7 billion in construction funding, he said, meaning the state will come close to funding every project.

The legislation authorizes the Maryland Stadium Authority, which oversees the 21st Century Schools Program in Baltimore City, to manage the new funds.

In prepared remarks, Hogan touted his record on education as governor, saying he has fully funded every jurisdiction during his first term, going above the recommended formulas. Maryland has spent a record $25 billion on education and $1.4 billion on construction, he said.

The state has built or rebuilt 125 schools in Maryland, including nine in Baltimore City as part of 21st Century Schools, with dozens more in the design or construction stages, he noted. He added that “countless more” have been renovated.

While those remarks are fairly standard talking points, they also foreshadow one of the biggest potential policy discussions during the upcoming legislative session, when the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission, is expected to release its recommendations on how education in Maryland should be funded.

In preliminary meetings, members of the commission, named for Chairman William E. “Brit” Kirwan, have called for expanded pre-kindergarten education and salary increases for teachers while commissioners still consider how to change the formula for allotting education dollars. An annual price tag of a $4.4 billion increase in schools funding has been floated, though no final recommendation has been made.

Asked about that figure Tuesday, Hogan reportedly said, “No, we cannot afford that.”

The General Assembly passed a bill in April to put the casino revenue referendum on the November ballot. Much to the dismay of Democrats, Hogan used it as fodder in a campaign ad calling for support of the “Hogan lockbox initiative,” even though his signature was not required for the question to be decided by voters.

Brandon Weigel

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