In a bipartisan vote on April 2, 2013, the Maryland House of Delegates approved
the Baltimore City School Construction and Revitalization Act of 2013 by 102-30,
following Senate approval 40-7. Under this new law, the State, Baltimore City,
and Baltimore City Public Schools will contribute $60 million annually to leverage
$1 billion in bonds for Phase I of the school system's 10-year facilities plan. Governor
O'Malley has said he will sign the bill.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland's Education
Reform Project has worked to address the poor quality of city school buildings
since a task force report on school facilities, in 2003, highlighted the inequity
in facility conditions across the state. Little progress over several years
led ACLU to bolder approaches and its 2010 report Buildings
for Academic Excellence, which details the scope of the problem,
the insufficient funding streams, and the successful strategies used elsewhere.
The Buildings report was followed by a second report, outlining
a specific financing
"The passage of this bill represents a huge step toward achieving the goals
that we outlined three years ago," said Bebe Verdery, Director of the ACLU-MD's
Education Reform Project. "We believed that if solutions based on
successful school construction models in other states and districts were presented
and developed, we could build a campaign of support among those most affected
-- students, teachers, parents, school leaders -- and gain the support of elected
officials. Today, we thank those officials for championing this new law."
Over the past two years, the ACLU worked closely with the Baltimore Education
Coalition, various grassroots organizations, and business and philanthropic
leaders, to form the campaign, Transform Baltimore: Build Schools,
Build Neighborhoods. The campaign quickly moved the vision of new
and renovated schools to the forefront of public awareness and debate. ACLU
also worked closely with Dr. Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools,
and school system leaders as they developed a comprehensive 10-Year Plan for
school renewals and financing.
Baltimore City Mayor Rawlings-Blake and the Baltimore City delegation recognized
the significant impact that a large-scale public school construction program
would have not only on student outcomes but also on job creation and long-term
economic stability for neighborhoods, making the bill their top legislative
priority for 2013.
Phase I will generate an estimated 8,000 jobs. During the hearings and floor
debate in the House and Senate, state leaders touted the city school construction
plan as a win-win for the whole state. "Kudos to Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Dr.
Alonso for prioritizing this critical issue for the city," said Neil Bergsman,
Director of the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute. "Revitalizing the
city must be comprehensive -- significant investment in schools and neighborhoods
is needed to attract and keep families in the city."
The new law establishes a structure for Phase I of City Schools' 10-year facilities
plan, including about 50 fully renovated or newly built schools over the
next seven years. "We look forward to the day when all City schoolchildren
arrive each morning in schools with sufficient heat, air-conditioning, water
fountains ... , 21st century technology, and playing fields where they can
get exercise," said ACLU-MD's Frank Patinella. Some 26 schools will
close and their student populations will be transferred to the new/renovated
Moreover, this law puts the financing plan into action by requiring the State,
City, and city school system each to commit $20 million annually towards debt
service for the historic $1 billion investment in city school construction.
The Maryland Stadium Authority will serve as the financing agent and oversee
the building of approximately 15 new schools. The City Public Schools will
oversee the 35+ full-renovation projects. To ensure accountability, transparency,
and quality, the state's Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC)
will maintain its role in approving projects in the plan.
The ACLU reports that it will continue working with the Transform Baltimore
campaign and the Baltimore Education Coalition to ensure that Phase I is implemented
to achieve the best outcome for city students. "The ACLU is committed
to work with officials to explore options to fund the second phase of the Baltimore
City Public Schools' $2.4 billion 10-year plan," said ACLU's Patinella. "All
Baltimore schoolchildren and their teachers must be in modern buildings by
the end of this process."