Planning Assistance in Action
With a typical annual state allocation of $300 million toward school construction to be distributed to 24 Local Education Agencies (LEA) across the state, the Interagency Committee for School Construction (IAC), which manages the Public School Construction Program (PSCP), has a lot of work to do. The PSCP was established in 1971 to ensure the equitable physical condition of school facilities across Maryland and coordinate state school construction funding. Since 1972, the State of Maryland has provided more than $7.8 billion to assist localities with their school construction needs. The IAC is composed of the State Superintendent of Schools, the Secretaries of the Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) and the Maryland Department of General Services, and two members of the public appointed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, respectively (see chart above). The current members are:
- Karen Salmon, Ph.D, State Superintendent of Schools, Chairperson
- Ellington Churchill, Secretary of the Department of General Services
- Wendi Peters, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning
- Barbara Hoffman, representing the Maryland Senate
- John Bohanan, representing the Maryland House of Delegates
State funding for school construction projects is limited, and the IAC and its designees are tasked with reviewing and allocating funding annually. The IAC is very detailed in its reviews. Not only does it consider the construction of new schools, it deliberates over renovations to roofs, HVAC systems, building additions, and open space improvements. LEAs submit requests for funding to the IAC annually and the organization ranks the requests using the following factors:
- State educational priorities
- The extent to which 7-year enrollment projections exceed the State-rated capacity (a measure of the maximum number of students that reasonably can be accommodated in a school) for the applicable schools
- Average year of completed construction of the building
- The rehabilitation of existing schools to ensure that facilities in established neighborhoods are of equal quality to new schools
- The number of students who receive special education services, who are eligible for free and reduced price meals, or who are English-language learners
The Maryland Department of Planning plays a vital role in the PCSP. The department assesses enrollment projections, sites, state-rated site capacities, and the relationship of requested projects to the Local Educational Facilities Master Plans and comprehensive plans. First and foremost, public schools are community institutions of learning, but as public facilities they have a significant impact on local land use, transportation needs, and community development. As large facilities, they require utility extensions and consideration of environmental and other constraints, and have high operating costs. With hundreds, and sometimes thousands of students, faculty, and parents coming and going each day, public schools also greatly affect local road and pedestrian networks. And if situated in a more established neighborhood or community core, school construction and rehabilitation can spur economic activity, promote revitalization, and develop community anchor institutions. Planners speak this language. As such, Planning staff contributes expertise in smart growth, Priority Funding Areas, Sustainable Communities, and comprehensive planning. The IAC meets six times a year, and Planning staff is always on hand to continue the hard work of ensuring the best possible educational learning environments for Maryland’s youth.
Like planning, education is a multifaceted and complex endeavor that integrates the personal and human with the physical and technological. If there is a responsibility requiring the attention of as many state agencies as possible, it is public education. And while some PSCP funding requests may go unrewarded in a fiscal year, the IAC recognizes their significance and looks forward to considering them again the following year. Planning is honored to be part of this team and to advance this mission.
For more information, consult the Maryland Public School Construction Capital Improvement Program for fiscal year 2018.