ANNAPOLIS - On February 28, the campaign to Transform Baltimore and the Baltimore Education Coalition will testify in front of the House Appropriations Committee in support of House Bill 304, a bill that would give existing state capital funding for school construction in the form of a "block grant" to Baltimore City Public Schools. If passed, City Schools could borrow large amounts of funding up front to begin a mass-scale school construction and renovation program, and use the annual state block grant in an alternative financing arrangement to pay down the debt.
"The current project-by-project funding system will leave Baltimore with old, unhealthy, and inadequate schools for decades to come," said Bebe Verdery, Director of the ACLU-s Education Reform Project. "Greenville, South Carolina's proven financing model is the kind of innovation we need for city students."
WHAT: Hearing for House Bill 304, Baltimore City-School Construction-Block Grant
WHEN: February 28, 2012, hearing begins at 1:30 PM
WHERE: House Appropriations Committee, House Office Building, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD
WHO: Transform Baltimore campaign and Baltimore Education Coalition members
- Leaders of the campaign: Bebe Verdery, Director of ACLU's Education Reform Project; Sue Fothergill, Co-Chair of the Baltimore Education Coalition; Bishop Douglas Miles, Co-Chair of BUILD
- Marietta English, President of the Baltimore Teachers Union, VP of AFT
- Students from Baltimore Freedom Academy and City Neighbors High School
- Tom Smith, teacher at Patterson High School
- Karen DeCamp, Director of Neighborhood Programs at Greater Homewood Community Corporation; Dante DeTablan, Community Schools Coordinator at Benjamin Franklin High School
- Tom Wilcox, President of Baltimore Community Foundation
- Vinsun Stringer, Broughton Construction; Ana Castro, JRS Architects
- Chris Parts, US Green Building Council, Maryland Chapter
- Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, President of National Action Network, Baltimore City
BACKGROUND: The campaign to Transform Baltimore calls upon elected officials and decision-makers at the city and state levels to adopt and implement a funding plan to renovate and modernize every public school building in Baltimore City within eight years. City school buildings are the oldest in the state and approximately 70% are in poor condition. City students and teachers have to endure unhealthy conditions every day: roofs that leak, old and harmful materials that have not been abated, undrinkable water, and poor indoor air quality. Further, city students are at a competitive disadvantage because of deficient and inadequate libraries, computer centers, science labs, and technology. An estimated $2.8 billion is needed to bring every city school facility to safe, healthy, and educationally modern standards. With only approximately $60 million in current annual funding for improving buildings, city students and teachers will continue to struggle in deficient and unhealthy conditions. A new approach is needed.
The campaign calls upon elected officials to adopt innovative financing strategies, which have been successfully used in other districts and states, to fully rebuild and renovate all of Baltimore's school buildings. House Bill 304 is modeled after Greenville, South Carolina's successful initiative, where 70 schools were completely rebuilt or fully renovated in six years. House Bill 304 provides $32 million per year, or 15% of the state's capital funds, for school construction (whichever is greater) of state capital funding for city school construction as a "block grant." Baltimore City Public Schools can leverage an estimated $480 million for school construction up front, using the block grant to pay down the debt over 25-30 years. The average of state capital funding for city school construction over the past five years is $36 million; $32 million was last year's allocation. The campaign is asking for the state to contribute $32 million consistently so that there is the security and consistency needed for greater borrowing.
The state block will work in tandem with other revenue contributed to city school construction to fully realize the $2.8 billion plan.