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Rawlings-Blake Signs Bottle Tax To Fund Schools

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Ritchie Rochelle 175x131 L Rochelle Ritchie
Rochelle Ritchie joined WJZ Eyewitness News in June 2012. Prio...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)— A new report says Baltimore City schools need $2.5 billion in repairs. It also calls for many schools to rebuild or shut down.

Rochelle Ritchie explains what the city plans to do about it.

Part of the money will come from the bottle tax, which the mayor signed in to law Tuesday. The mayor, along with school officials, hope changes in state legislation will bring in the rest of the money.

Tiny desks, rusted lockers, poor ceilings and busted locks–these are just some of the issues plaguing Baltimore City schools like Northwood Elementary.

“What does that say to my students about their worth?” said Yasmene Mumby, who taught three years in Baltimore City and knows firsthand how a poor infrastructure can affect learning. “Here I am going into a system where I think I’m going to affect change instructionally but then I realize here in a building physically, it’s compromised.”

Mumby is just one of many who supports the mayor decision to sign the bottle tax into law.

The tax will raise the cost of bottled beverages and in return fund school construction projects, totaling $2.5 billion.

Some argue even with the tax, it’s not enough.

“Let’s be real. We can’t keep buildings that are 38 percent utilized. It’s not common sense. We’re paying full funding to keep the buildings open. We’re not serving anyone’s children by doing something like that,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Baltimore City schools received an “F” from the Jacobs Report, a district-wide condition assessment of city schools.

“The report asserts that city schools’ buildings fall far below national standings and gives the district an overall rating of very poor,” said Dr. Andres Alonso, Baltimore City Schools’ CEO.

The report found more than 23 percent were built before 1946, 60 percent are in poor condition and 50 schools would need to be rebuilt or closed.

Amira Loyal, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Baltimore Design, says poor conditions make it tough to learn.

“The bathrooms, sometimes the toilets don’t work and the desk are a little small,” Loyal said.

The city will begin holding community meetings before the beginning of the school year to hear ideas for improvement.

School officials will make a decision in November as to which schools should be rebuilt, renovated or closed.

The bottle tax to fund school construction will more than double.

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