Supporters predict large turnout for schools rally in Annapolis

Supporters of an ambitious plan to rebuild Baltimore's crumbling schools predict a large turnout Monday night when they gather in Annapolis for a rally in support of the plan, which faces an uphill battle to win passage in the General Assembly.

The Baltimore Education Coalition, a group that supports the $2.4 billion plan, said more than 2,000 people are expected to turn out for the event on Lawyers Mall outside the State House.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and city schools CEO Andres Alonso, the two main proponents of the plan, are expected to speak at the 6:30 p.m. rally. They will be joined by Mark Fetting, former chief executive of Legg Mason, representing Baltimore's business community.

Supporters of the plan are backing legislation that would give Baltimore its annual allotment of school construction aid in the form of a guaranteed minimum amount of about $32 million a year for 30 years. Currently the amount varies but in recent years has been more than that amount.

Plan proponents say the guaranteed stream of money – combined with revenue from a city bottle tax — would allow a new school construction authority to issue $1.1 billion in bonds that would be used to finance the first half of a 10-year plan.

Frank Patinella, an education advocate with the Maryland American Civil Liberties Union, said the plan would replace the "Band-Aid approach" the school system current employs to maintain the state's oldest schools.

The bill is picking up support in the House of Delegates but has received a skeptical reception from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. Gov. Martin O'Malley has expressed interest in the plan but has yet to say whether he will support it.

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