Days after Gov. Martin O'Malley proposed an additional $336 million in school construction funding and upgrades for public schools in Maryland in his fiscal year 2014 budget, the state was ranked number one for its public schools by Education Week magazine for the fifth year in a row, scoring a B plus.
"Together - even during tough times, and even while other states were scaling back their commitment to schools - we've chosen to make record investments in public education," O'Malley said. "We made schools a priority because we know that education is the key ingredient to long term growth and job creation."
O'Malley said the public school budget stems from a trip he took in 2006 to a school where temporary learning "shacks" had been set up, and he pledged to do everything he could to put these kids in state-of-the-art, 21st century schools.
Since then, O'Malley has spent nearly 2.4 billion to keep that pledge.
The $336 million includes $25 million for air conditioning, $6.1 for the Aging Schools Programs and $4.5 million in Qualified Zone Academy Bonds, which provide investors with federal tax credits in tax-free interest payments for schools with many students that come from low-income families.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said the investment in air conditioning is a means of making sure every Maryland child in public school has their needs met.
"Air conditioning isn't a luxury, it's a necessity that helps fight against mold allergens in the air, which can cause students to miss class because of asthma or severe allergies," Brown said.
O'Malley said along with boosting investments in schools, his administration also working to cut government waste in other areas.
"Because we took a balanced approach, we're on the verge of totally eliminating the nearly $2 billion structural deficit we inherited in 2007," O'Malley said.
O'Malley said the additional public school funding would also create, support and leverage an estimated 8,199 jobs.
The public school initiative was praised by Speaker Michael Busch, who was recently reelected into that position at the opening session of the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday.
"The best investment that we can make in our State's future is in our children," Busch said. "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."
O'Malley has until Monday to introduce his budget. Once it is introduced in the House, they will make the changes they want to it and send it to the Senate. The Senate will then make their changes and send it back to the House. The House and Senate typically appoint people for a committee to iron out the differences between the two government bodies, afterward being the final vote.