- On Air Program Guide
- A Blue View
- Brain Talk
- Cellar Notes
- Choral Arts Classics
- The Environment in Focus
- Gil Sandler’s Baltimore Stories
- Humanities Connection
- Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast
- Midday with Dan Rodricks
- The Morning Economic Report
- Radio Kitchen
- The Signal
- Take Five
- Your Maryland
- Public Commentary
- War of 1812 Stories
City Schools Construction Plan Set for Speedy House Approval
You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.
March 21, 2013
by Karen Hosler
Against long odds, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s novel billion dollar plan to replace Baltimore’s decaying schools seems headed for speedy approval in the House of Delegates.
Despite concerns about the city’s fiscal track record, the House of Delegates gave preliminary approval today to a plan that would guarantee $20 million a year in state funds for a massive overhaul of Baltimore’s aged schools. A final House vote is expected tomorrow, before the measure heads to the state Senate.
When combined with an additional $20 million each from the city government and the city school system, the state guarantee would allow city officials to borrow $1.1 billion to replace or repair 50 schools over the next 10 years.
City Delegation Chairman Curt Anderson said he was particularly pleased that his House colleagues voted by wide margins to block attempts to amend the bill.
“It looks like we will have about 90 to 100 votes tomorrow. I think everybody understands that Baltimore City has the oldest schools in the state, that we’ve had the biggest problem raising money for schools because of the…we also have the largest poor population in the state.”
Baltimore operates 191 schools with an average age of about 40, although some date back to the 19th century. As families with children fled the city during the latter part of the 20th century, student population per school dropped, and now averages about 65 percent of capacity.
Carroll County Republican Susan Krebs said she was concerned because of the city’s past reluctance to close decrepit schools, and its failure to provide adequate maintenance. She wanted the bill to include a target utilization rate that would match requirements met by county school systems.
“What I’m trying to make sure of is that the political will is there and that we follow through with these consolidations and closures because it is more efficient, and it will, it will actually put more money in the classroom.”
But Baltimore Democrat Keith Haynes, a key sponsor of the legislation, noted that the city has closed 25 schools in recent years and is planning to close an additional 26.
“When you talk about political will, that will is there because the process started about four or five years ago with the closure of those 25 schools.”
Delegate John Bohanan, a St. Mary’s County Democrat, added that the House Appropriations Committee had spent hours this week deliberating tactics for controlling the process but ultimately rejected them.
As proposed, the financial arrangements for the fund would be managed by the Maryland Stadium Authority, the Interagency Committee on School Construction would oversee the building activities, and the State Board of Public Works would review contracts. That’s enough oversight, Bohanan said.
“It is not wise to begin micromanaging a rather bold and dynamitic and innovative plan.”
House Republican Leader Tony O’Donnell remained troubled, though.
“Baltimore city has exceptional needs, and we know that. But this, this, the way it was brought through the process at the same time that votes were trying to be gathered up for the governor’s gas tax makes it very suspect in my mind.”
As it happens, Governor Martin O’Malley’s gas tax hike is also scheduled to come up tomorrow for a final vote in the House.
IN FOCUS TODAY
Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 4:50am
The taxpayers of Baltimore are about to front a developer $107 million in something called tax...
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 6:35am
WYPR's Fraser Smith and political consultant and columnist Laslo Boyd talk about how Baltimore...
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 4:44am
For Baltimore businesses, this is "Clean Your Files" day, part of the city's campaign to...