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Battle over funding for school air conditioning

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Posted at 6:00 PM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 22:06:15-04

An ongoing battle on how to handle overheated class rooms in Baltimore County and Baltimore City reached its boiling point in Annapolis Wednesday.  

The governor and comptroller want portable air conditioning units put in class rooms immediately.

But Baltimore County and Baltimore City want to spend the money on central air conditioning units.

Gov. Larry Hogan was upset by that decision, so he decided to withhold $10 million from Baltimore County's request and $5 million from Baltimore City's request.

That money was part of a larger sum dedicated to school construction projects for each system. The governor will not fully fund each jurisdiction unless it has a plan for portable air conditioning units by the start of next school year.

The city of Baltimore issued a statement in response to the decision to withhold funds,

"The Mayor is disappointed in the actions taken by the Board of Public Works today to once again target funding for Baltimore’s school children. Although the issue of air conditioning and our children’s comfort is obviously important and we’re working to find solutions to ensure they have a healthy and productive environment for learning, she believes it would have been a more productive use of the board’s energy to spend time identifying ways to increase funding for our public schools and to support student achievement.  The mayor looks forward to continuing to work on these issues with our state partners.”

Comptroller Peter Franchot had no problem blaming three prominent elected officials for the lack of window air conditioning units.

"Three people. The county executive of Baltimore County, the speaker of the house and the president of the Senate," said Franchot, who said the three worked together during the General Assembly to limit the Board of Public Works' power to tell Baltimore County schools how to spend state money.

Treasurer Nancy Kopp took offense to Franchot's comments.

"You just insulted 188 elected officials and I take offense to that," she said.

Parents that testified Wednesday couldn't understand why the other 22 jurisdictions could install air conditioning units, but not the county or the city.

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