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An Annapolis Rally For Baltimore's School Facilities Plan
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February 26, 2013
Nathan Sterner: A couple thousand Baltimoreans, many of them children, rode school buses to Annapolis last night to show their support for legislation that would allow the city to borrow against future state aid to pay for a massive infrastructure project… leading to the rebuilding or replacement of many of Baltimore’s schools. WYPR’s Karen Hosler was there for the rally and joins us now by phone. Good morning, Karen!
Karen Hosler: Good morning.
Sterner: Before we get to the rally itself, let’s go over this school facilities plan a little. Explain how it would work.
Hosler: Well, basically the school system is figuring that it gets about 33, 36 million dollars a year from the state for school construction improvement s et cetera. And the plan is let’s get kind of a block grant so we have a promise, an asset, against which the city can borrow immediately, and it hopes to be able to repair, replace at least half the schools that need it within the first four years.
Sterner: The issue as I understand it is that how much money goes to the schools changes every year; they’re asking (the state) to make a solid commitment of about 32 million dollars a year.
Hosler: Yes, yes, that’s correct.
Sterner: Okay. So at this rally last night, lots of people there, the mood was festive, a little sound now from it; the voice you’ll hear is Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake: Look I thought we came out for the Ravens, but the Ravens haven’t seen nothing like this.
Sterner: Okay, set the scene for us.
Hosler: Well, it was really crowded. Of course, this is lawyers mall, which is right next to the state house, but there were so many people coming in you couldn’t even see the depth of the crowd. The school buses were parked all the way down ... boulevard and apparently they caused quite a traffic jam coming in to the city. The children were doing various routines, singing routines, dancing routines, before the Mayor spoke. There was a lot of chants, you know “building a better Baltimore, better schools, better Maryland.” The crowd was already very psyched before the Mayor even started speaking. Sterner: And when the Mayor did speak, she said that the state has to act here.
Rawlings-Blake: If our schools fail, that is a failure of our state, make no mistake about it. And we will not take no for an answer one more year.
Sterner: What’s support for this like in the General Assembly? I understand that House Speaker Michael Busch has come out in favor of the plan…
Hosler: He did, and attended the rally, and proclaimed himself a member of the block grant express, which was one of the chants of the evening, “woo-woo, block grant express” so he was a passenger fully on board. Apparently he went to school, as a child, in Baltimore. And then Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, he also is a passenger on the…
Sterner: But the Governor (Martin O’Malley) has not yet come out in support?
Hosler: The Governor has not come out. Nor, importantly, has Senate President Mike Miller, who has in fact said it troubles him, the notion of debt on top of debt. He made those comments some weeks ago, and has been silent on the issue, but he’s a pretty powerful stumbling block or advocate depending on his mood.
Sterner: Even so, Mayor Rawlings-Blake seemed optimistic that this would get done.
Rawlings-Blake: When the confetti falls on sine die, on the last day of the session, we will have a deal for Baltimore schools.
Sterner: So from what you’re seeing now from the General Assembly, do you think that deal will be reached?
Hosler: You know, it’s impossible to predict about the General Assembly, but I would think this would be a tough one. What might happen is that it gets woven in with whatever they do about transportation. Because that’s a big outstanding issue that’s very important to Miller.
Sterner: That’s WYPR State House Reporter Karen Hosler. Thank you so much for joining us.
Hosler: You’re welcome.
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