The Mayor Hears the Voice of Organized Parents!

In our last post, we reported on the participation of John Eager Howard parents in the Transform Baltimore rally advocating for more funding for school facilities.  Following that rally and a meeting between Transform Baltimore representatives and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Mayor is now for the first time in months openly talking about revenue for school construction and renovation. See the article below from yesterday’s Baltimore Sun.

This is a wonderful testimony to the power of parents organized together, and school communities across the city organizing under Transform Baltimore and the Baltimore Education Coalition.

While this is good news, we must be aware that this is only the beginning of progress. We still need a plan and a clear articulation of how much money will be available and what the commitment will be in regard to the funds being consistent over time and flexible for use in leveraging more funds in the form of loans. The $40 million referenced in the article would be assembled from the local capital budget, state revenues currently allocated for school construction, anticipated slots revenue, and estimated funds raised through the proposed bottle tax.

According to the Baltimore ACLU, this $40 million will be able to leverage over $500 million in loans to effect a mass scale renovation of school facilities and to pay the loan down. This system, supported by Transform Baltimore and Baltimore Education Coalition, is based on a Greenville, South Carolina model where a large  sum of money was borrowed up front to do mass scale renovations, a plan that allowed for cost efficiency through mass purchasing.

We will need to remain vigilant, advocating for the enactment of the bottle tax, and to ensure that the funds will be steady and consistent over time, a necessity if they are to be successfully used to leverage further funding.

If you want to help us create stellar schools for Reservoir Hill youth contact Rick Gwynallen at the RHIC office: 410.225.7547. The Reservoir Hill School & Recreation Team needs you!

PLAN WOULD REQUIRE COUNCIL APPROVAL

By Julie Scharper, TheBaltimore Sun

11:47 AM EST, November 10, 2011

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake plans to propose Monday a plan to boost yearly funding for public school construction by $23 million, in part by increasing the city's new bottle tax to 5 cents, according to administration sources.

The plan would raiseBaltimore's annual contribution to school renovation and construction to $40 million, enabling the city to sell bonds to pay for the estimated $2.8 billion in improvements needed for the aging school buildings.

The proceeds from the increased tax on bottled beverages — which is currently set at 2 cents — would be combined with 10 percent of the city's share of revenues from a planned slots parlor and $12 million in savings officials uncovered last year by adjusting the formula by which the city's contribution to schools is calculated, sources said.

Voters approved this week the creation of a fund to consolidate money for school construction. A 2010 report released by the American Civil Liberties Union said it would cost $2.8 billion to repair the city's dilapidated schools, many of which lack adequate heat or air conditioning, are infested with vermin or have broken windows and doors. Hundreds of children, parents and teachers rallied across from City Hall last week for a solution to the problem.

The bottle tax would need the approval of the City Council to be imposed, and will likely face stiff opposition from the beverage industry. The council passed a 2 cent tax in 2010, over protests from industry groups. The proceeds from that tax, which was set to sunset after three years, were said at the time to be needed for street cleaning and other public works projects.

That tax has brought in less revenue than officials had initially anticipated, for a total of about $4 million annually.

Administration sources say Rawlings-Blake will pledge to use all of the proceeds of the 5 cent tax for school construction, as long as she remains in office.

Rawlings-Blake convened a task force a year ago to draft solutions to the school construction issue. The task force's report, which was due in February, has not yet been released.

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun