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Senate President Confident In Baltimore School Funding Deal

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s Senate president said Tuesday he is fairly confident a compromise will be reached on a funding deal for Baltimore schools to address some of the state’s oldest educational facilities.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, said there have been staff meetings between his office and the staffs of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley and House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, on the issue. They are seeking a compromise, just like they did on a transportation funding measure that was made public last week.

Late last year, the city school system announced plans to close 26 school buildings in the next 10 years as part of a plan to revamp the city’s aged infrastructure. Students and parents who attended a rally in Annapolis last month to support the funding plan described dilapidated bathrooms that they don’t feel comfortable using. Parents complained about the heat not working in the winter.

The difficulty in the negotiations, Miller said, is creating proper oversight.

“There are those that want a handout — that want no checks and balances — and there are those who want oversight and, you know, be fiscally responsible and get a return on the state’s dollar,” Miller said.

The Senate president said negotiators are bringing people together to discuss a plan.

“I promise you, if it is passed — and I think it will be — it will be fair,” Miller said. “It will be equitable. It will be honest. It will be above board, and it will be to the advantage of the schoolchildren of Baltimore city and to the taxpayers … the people of the state of Maryland.”

How the final deal would be structured and how much would be allocated remains to be seen.

“It’s still being negotiated right now,” Miller said Tuesday.

A proposal presented earlier this session would allocate a grant of about $32 million a year for 30 years. That money would be used to leverage $1.1 billion in bonds. Last month, a large crowd of students and parents came to Annapolis to rally for the plan. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake attended, along with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and the speaker.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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