Constructing schools

October 23, 2006

Could last week's announcement by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that he'll commit at least $338 million to school construction next year have anything to do with the upcoming election? The total is the same as Mr. Ehrlich put in his budget for the current fiscal year, but, arguably, if he wants to stay in office, a maintenance of effort for something that affects a lot of voters, such as school buildings, is the least he could do. And big money for building schools is necessary now because Mr. Ehrlich was so stingy when he first took office.

Across the state, schools are bursting at the seams and many also need major renovations to accommodate new equipment or new requirements, such as all-day kindergarten.

A 2004 task force chaired by state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp recommended that Maryland spend $250 million a year for eight years toward school construction and renovation. But until recently, Mr. Ehrlich had proposed less than $160 million a year, at one point tying more school construction money to passage of slots legislation.

With continuing population growth and inflation making the task force projections more than justified, it's a good thing the governor has changed his tune - even if it does come just before the election.

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