A rally for education funding takes place at Lawyer's Mall. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun video)
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh says she will announce a funding plan Monday that will help close the city school district's $130 million budget shortfall.
Pugh made the announcement while speaking to a boisterous crowd of Baltimore students, parents and teachers in Annapolis on Thursday night. They descended on Lawyers Mall, near the State House and governor's mansion, to press for more state funding for city schools.
Organizers with the Baltimore Education Coalition estimated that about 2,000 people attended the event. The crowd's chants and cheers could be heard from blocks away in downtown Annapolis.
Pugh told the crowd she "will not let our school system down!"
The crowd responded to Pugh's speech with a chant: "Prove it! Prove it!" Pugh stood at the microphone for a few moments, then repeated her promise of an announcement on Monday.
In an interview, Pugh said she would work with state lawmakers over the weekend on a plan to find money for the schools.
Others focused on pressing the state to come up with more money. Sen. Richard Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat, pointed to Government House, where Gov. Larry Hogan lives. The gesture was met with boos.
Madaleno then directed the crowd in a chant of "We want Hogan! We want Hogan!"
City schools CEO Sonja Santelises said she'll work "tirelessly" to get the school system the resources it needs to properly educate children.
"You are not here begging! You are not here for a handout! You are here for what you deserve!" she said.
Without extra financial support, Santelises has said she may need to lay off more than 1,000 school employees, including teachers, and cut per-student funding.
The school system's funding has declined due to multiple factors, including a drop in student enrollment and an increase in the city's wealth on paper, even though some new developments don't pay full property taxes due to tax-financing agreements.
Anathanasia Kyriakakos, an art teacher at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School, said the city needs to hire more teachers, not lay them off. Kyriakakos is the city and state teacher of the year.
"I go to work every day because I love teaching," she said.
She said her student's hopes and dreams become her hopes and dreams. "When they succeed, I succeed," she said.
People in the crowd carried signs with slogans such as "City kids are worth it" and "BCPS does not stand for Broke Cheap Poor Schools." Cheerleaders in purple uniforms from City Springs School led cheers of "Baltimore succeeds, Maryland succeeds!" and "Fix the gap!"
Karen Doory, of Baltimore's Homeland neighborhood, said the prospect of deep cuts to Baltimore schools was causing her to consider private school for when her 2-year-old daughter reaches school age.
Doory was pregnant with her second child as she handed out fliers at the rally.
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"I would like to send my kids to public school," she said. "I would have to consider private schools if they don't have adequate teachers."
Medfield Heights Elementary School Principal Amber Kilcoyne said the cuts would cause her to lay off three full-time teachers and one part-time teacher. She said her school of 368 students has 25 teachers.