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School facilities bill grew from grass roots

Public OfficialsElectionsAmerican Civil Liberties Union

Michael Dresser got it right in describing the trajectory of the Baltimore school facilities bill as going from "non-starter to law," but the story goes far beyond the elected and appointed officials who worked hard to make the deals and shepherd the legislation to passage ("City schools bill a political showpiece," May 17).

The deeper story must include the herculean efforts of the Baltimore Education Coalition (BEC), the innovative policy advocacy work done by the ACLU of Maryland and the powerful community organizing of groups like BUILD and Child First. Our elected officials don't do this by themselves. They were propelled to act by the incredible urgency and public will created by the BEC. BEC made the problem of broken-down, substandard schools real, laid out a vision for a solution and created the imperative so elected officials had to act.

Over the last three years, BEC organized hundreds of meetings in schools, neighborhoods and churches to train and mobilize leaders. Coalition members held dozens of meetings with elected officials, gaining commitments that decent school buildings would be their number one priority for 2013. BEC organized huge rallies in Annapolis including February's 3,000-person rally for new and renovated schools.

Congratulations to all the elected and appointed officials who worked hard to make our vision a reality, but also look behind them at the thousands of parents, students, non-profit advocates, teachers and citizens who pushed them forward and enabled them to pass this bill. BEC and its member groups expect to stay on it to ensure that the money is spent well and we continue to create the kind of schools our children deserve.

Karen DeCamp, Baltimore

The writer is director of neighborhood programs for the Greater Homewood Community Corporation.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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