21st Century Schools


Originally posted in The Rawlings-Blake Review, Issue #180

Baltimore has thrived during tough economic times while many other cities throughout the nation have fallen short—thanks to tough decisions that keep the City moving forward. Some of those tough decisions have meant asking each of us to kick in a little more for the long term fiscal health of our city and to make sure that we are investing in the next generation. The bottle tax serves as prime example. The tax played a vital role in closing a massive budget deficit without cutting important city services; and more importantly, it was essential in securing a $1.1 billion investment in construction funds for Baltimore City schools.

When we increased the tax from 2 cents to 5 cents, I was clear that revenue from the tax would go toward making Baltimore City Public Schools facilities better. And thanks partly to this revenue, the City was able to double its annual commitment to school construction—from roughly $17 million annually to about $38 million dollars—the largest increase in local city funding for school construction in Baltimore’s history.

Our increased annual commitment enabled us to go to Annapolis with a stronger argument that Baltimore’s youth deserved more. As a result, during the 2013 Maryland General Assembly session, Baltimore secured a $1.1 billion investment for school construction.

The Baltimore City Public School Construction and Revitalization Act of 2013 is the most important legislative achievement for the city in decades. It represents a landmark renewal in the partnership between the City and the State to rebuild schools, ensuring that all kids are able to sit in a clean, modern and safe building. The funding is expected to support construction of as many as 15 new replacement schools and more than 30 significantly renovated schools over 10 years.

The legislation called for a memorandum of understanding between the City, State, Baltimore City Public Schools, and the Maryland Stadium Authority. The MOU—which formalizes the roles that each of these partners will play in the billion dollar plan to revitalize Baltimore’s schools—went before the Maryland Board of Public Works on Wednesday. It was unanimously approved.

But the plan doesn’t work without revenue streams like the bottle tax that support the $1.1 billion in bonds.

We are at the beginning of a very exciting time for Baltimore, but our vision of growing Baltimore by 10,000 families in the next decade depends greatly on our ability to improve public education. As mayor, and as mother of a public school student, I know how important education is. I will always continue to fight for better schools across Baltimore.

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