Maryland Gov Larry Hogan and the state’s comptroller, Peter Franchot, want to hear from Baltimore County officials why so many schools still don’t have air conditioning, the Baltimore Sun reports.
Mr Hogan described the situation as “absolutely disgraceful and unacceptable,” saying “there’s no excuse” for not having air conditioning in about 50 schools in the district. The district claims it doesn’t have the financial resources from the state to install air conditioning.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who, like Mr Hogan, is a Republican and could potentially run for governor in the future, was criticized sharply, at least by reference to the school system, by Mr Franchot at the September 16 Board of Public Works meeting.
WJZ-TV (CBS affiliate) caught up with Mr Hogan at Wednesday night’s Orioles game. “If we have to cut off funding, if we have to play hardball, we’re going to make sure that Baltimore County takes the steps necessary to make sure these kids can learn in an environment where they’re not sweating to death,” the station quoted the governor as saying.
Mr Kamenetz said the county wants to improve the quality of school buildings, having already committed $1.3 billion to renovations. “We are providing more than $2 for every $1 of state funding,” he told WBAL-TV (NBC affiliate). “We need the state to step up and equally match our county contributions so we can expedite the air conditioning projects at the remaining schools.”
Baltimore County Superintendent of Schools Dallas Dance challenged the state to provide more assistance, suggesting the call to provide air conditioning was being made into a bigger problem than it actually is. His office released the following statement:
I want to thank the County Executive, County Council, state legislators and our Board of Education for the progress made to not only put air conditioning in our schools but also to modernize our schools to accommodate enrollment increases. It shows the strong partnership and commitment to all our students, families and employees.
A town hall meeting will take place on Tuesday, October 6, in Arbutus, the station reported, and I hope that meeting is designed to hear from parents about how students have trouble concentrating if they’re too hot. Messrs Kamenetz and Dance are expected to talk to the Board of Public Works at its October 7 meeting.
Noting the possible challenge from Mr Kamenetz for Mr Hogan’s seat as governor, the Sun’s editorial board wrote, “We’ll grant that if you’re one of the kids or teachers still stuck in sauna-like conditions, that progress doesn’t seem nearly fast enough. But it’s also important to consider air conditioning in the broader context of the county’s school facility needs.
“Whatever their motivations, the [governor and comptroller] are myopically jumping on a hot issue (so to speak) and ignoring the broader and very real problems of Baltimore County’s school building stock. Mr Kamenetz, to his credit, has tried to do something about the problem. He’s built 11 additions and seven new schools in five years, and last year he re-arranged the county’s capital borrowing program to devote more money to school construction. …”