Several committee members signaled strong support for the initiative, including Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, an East Baltimore Democrat. He praised the several dozen students, teachers and parents who crowded into the committee room for Alonso's briefing.

"You today are making history with your presence here to advocate for the improvement of your school system," McFadden said.

Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat, also offered praise for Alonso's plan.

"We have a lot of issues to deal with, but this might be the most important for both the city and the state," Madaleno said. "I haven't been to one Baltimore City school where I could see out the windows."

Madaleno said the city should have its share of the funding secured by mid-March, when the Senate is slated to vote on the budget.

After the briefing, Alonso huddled with schools activists and students, many wearing their school uniforms and clutching bright-colored backpacks, and also with Del. Heather Mizeur, a Montgomery County Democrat who has been a strong advocate for the funding plan.

The advocates said they planned to both lobby the legislature to support the plan and to prod the City Council to pass the bottle tax. Rob English, lead organizer for Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, said his group would fight hard on both fronts.

"This is the season that we're going to stand up for the children," said English.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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