Updated at 2:20 p.m.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told our City Hall Reporter Luke Broadwater that she could barely contain her excitement upon learning that the school construction bill would pass.
"I was so excited last night I was running around in a circle," she said Wednesday morning.
She added: "It means that our kids, who are in school now, will in their lifetime see new schools, reconstructed schools, rehabilitated schools, first-class schools in Baltimore. It is historic, and I’m extremely proud that my administration and all of our partners were able to work with the legislators to get this done. I pledged in front of thousands of school kids during the rally that when the confetti fell at sine die that we would have a deal, that I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. I’m very proud the legislature has approved this plan so we can move forward.
Nothing this big happens in one session. We had to take the constructive feedback the legislature gave us and do some more work. We did."
Baltimore city leaders are celebrating the official passage of legislation that in 10 years will bring the oldest school infrastructure in Maryland into the 21st century.
House Bill 860--which will require the city, school system and state to contribute a combined $60 million annually for the next several decades in order to orchestrate a large-scale facelift of roughly 50 schools--passed through House amendments and will head to the governor's desk, school officials announced Wednesday.
The passage culminates nearly two years of work on the part of city and school officials to present a coherent plan to lawmakers from across the state who vehemently debated the feasibility and financing of the $1 billion endeavor. The current plan covers only Phase 1, or half, of the district's overall needs (estimated at $2.4 billion) and long-term goals.
In the end, the district's plan had been kicked back once, refined, and ultimately included a major accountability element with the addition of the Maryland Stadium Authority as the primary overseers of project funding and implementation.
"This is a moment to reflect, celebrate and savor," city schools Andres Alonso said in a statement. "We are on the brink of making the largest public investment ever in Baltimore City’s students and communities, and there is a great deal of work ahead of us."
He went on to outline the next steps, which include: a Memorandum of Understanding among City Schools, Baltimore City, the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC); development of general educational specifications for schools; and the specific design process for schools designated for construction in Year 1 begins.
"In this complex work, there will be challenges and hard choices, and we will need to remain nimble as we move forward, to make sure we are meeting our school communities’ needs and are taking into account shifting conditions over a decade-long span," he said.
"But with passage of the construction funding legislation we have shown what is possible when we come together to focus on our kids. As a state, a city and a school district, we are sending the message to our teachers and, most importantly, to our students that we care about them, and are deeply invested in their futures."
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