Lawyers Mall outside the State House in Annapolis was packed last night with students, parents, teachers and other advocates pushing for Gov. Larry Hogan and the State to help Baltimore City Public Schools address a significant budget shortfall.
Outlets report thousands gathered there to call upon lawmakers to help fill in a $130 million budget gap that, if not addressed, could lead the school system to cut 1,000 employees, teacher included, and funding for student programs next year. Many have already complained that schools lack enough instructors as it is, particularly math and science teachers. Thousands of students have already left en masse in recent years to attend public schools in Baltimore County, according to City Schools officials.
The Baltimore Education Coalition organized the rally Thursday night.
A handful of prominent educators and officials took to the podium. City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises said she was proud of all those who congregated in the state capital. “I want you to know that you are not here begging, you are not here for a handout, you are here for what you deserve,” Santelises said, per a live video posted by City Schools to Facebook.
She also noted the school system is “working tirelessly” to get the necessary resources, and said the crowd’s presence was “the best lesson” of any subject that the students could have, “because you are advocating for yourselves.”
Maryland Teacher of the Year and national finalist Athanasia Kyriakakos, an art teacher at Merganthaler Vocational Technical High School, also stepped up to the mic. She spoke in support of equitable funding for all school systems and of the need for more, not fewer, teachers.
Mayor Catherine Pugh told everyone at the rally that she has a plan by which the city and state will provide funding to fix the gap. She’ll announce it on Monday.
Pugh noted that she was involved in building one of the newest public schools in Baltimore, the Baltimore Design School, and said she remains invested in education.
The Baltimore Education Coalition is already pushing advocates to make sure that happens by calling Pugh’s and Hogan’s offices. This morning, the group posted a flyer on Facebook for “#FixItFridays,” with phone numbers for both elected officials’ offices and specific phrasing for callers to use.
The Baltimore Algebra Project is also organizing a student-led rally for Thursday, March 2, at City Hall.
Chris Frederick contributed reporting to this story.
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