www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-baltimore-education-coalition-plans-rally-for-facilities-funding-20121015,0,5718246.story

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Baltimore Education Coalition plans Tuesday rally for facilities funding

Comes on heels of leaders expressing concern about lobbying in Annapolis

Erica L. Green

3:15 PM EDT, October 15, 2012

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The Baltimore Education Coalition will hold an event Tuesday in an effort to rally state and local leaders around a block grant bill that would help overhaul Baltimore city schools' dilapidated school buildings in 10 years.

The rally, dubbed "One Night, One Bill, One Baltimore," will be held at Barclay Elementary School from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and about 200 members of school communities are expected to attend.

According to the organizers, the rally is a show of solidarity to make a block grant, which will allow the city school system to address up to $1 billion of its $2.4 billion need, a priority in Annapolis next legislative session.

“Now is the time to act boldly and to find solutions to this crisis. The block grant bill is an innovative, valid, and effective way to address the decay of Baltimore’s school buildings,” said Jimmy Stuart, Co-Chair of the Baltimore Education Coalition, in a release from the organization. 

“Baltimore needs to come together to show that we have the political will to pass the bill and do what is necessary for city students.”

The rally also comes as the dust settles from an uproar spurred by recent revelations of woefully inadequate management and oversight of the system's roughly $1.4 billion budget under CEO Andres Alonso's administration.

In the wake of an audit published by The Sun and the state's legislative audit office last week, several city and state expressed concern that the system has put a lot of political capital at risk as the findings of mismanagement--part of a series of issues raised with the city school system's budgetary oversight this year--could work against a campaign that would entrust millions, potentially billions, more to the system to manage. 

In a Letter to the Editor published Monday, advocates asserted that, "Audit should not stop school construction," saying that while the audit findings were unacceptable, they should not be an excuse for leaders to continue ignoring the system's crumbling infrastructure.

The letter also said that there were ways that the school system would not be solely responsible for managing the school construction funds. 

By the end of the month, the district is expected to announce a major cornerstone of its "21st Century Buildings" campaign when it orchestrates a series of school closures and consolidations guided by a $1 million study Alonso ordered for every school building. You can read the latest updates about the campaign here.

Additionally, at the beginning of the school year, the school system presented the first draft of its capital improvement requests, 82 projects, it would be presenting to the state, which you can see here.

erica.green@baltsun.com

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