ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Thousands of Baltimore City families petitioned lawmakers for billions in funding to renovate or rebuild about 65 of the school district's crumbling buildings.
Parents, students, teachers and community leaders rallied in Annapolis Monday evening for legislation that would create a block grant each year in the state budget for the city's schools, enabling the city to leverage that to borrow more money.
Supporters say the measure would create more than $1 billion to remodel the dilapidated infrastructure of several schools. Legislation has been filed in Annapolis to create the program.
"We will not take 'no' for an answer," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said during the rally. "When the confetti falls on the last day of session, we will have a deal for Baltimore schools."
"If our schools fail, that is a failure of our state," the Democratic mayor added.
The group assembled in Lawyer's Mall chanted, "Better buildings. Better Baltimore. Better Maryland."
Many held signs etched with messages such as, "Baltimore Schools Matter" and "Block Grant Yes."
Students expressed the need for improved computer labs and cleaner bathrooms.
"Our bathrooms are horrible and I don't feel comfortable using them," said a student from Baltimore's Roland Park Elementary and Middle School.
Parents echoed the infrastructure concerns.
Ernest Taylor said his two daughters, who attend Dr. Carter G. Woodson Elementary and Middle School in Baltimore, shouldn't have to learn in an environment where the heat doesn't work in the winter and the air conditioning doesn't function in the summer.
"The ceiling is peeling, and the drinking water is bad," Taylor said. "If the teachers are uncomfortable how can they teach? If the kids are uncomfortable how can they learn?"
A flurry of Democrat lawmakers spoke out in support of the measure during the rally, including House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.
"I believe that the future of Maryland is intertwined with the success of Baltimore City," Brown said. "Whether you're educated in Bethesda Chevy or Baltimore City, our kids deserve a world class education. We need to rebuild Baltimore's crumbling schools."