BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Teacher unions and community leaders across the state and here in Baltimore are pushing for Governor Larry Hogan to release critical education funding.

Tracey Leong explains.

School leaders claim the governor is withholding $68 million—money the governor says he is not obligated to release.

“We cannot afford to short-change our young people,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Rawlings-Blake is standing tall with education advocates to demand Governor Larry Hogan release critical funding.

“The legislature has restored that money, placed it there. He can’t use it for anything else so give back the money,” said Baltimore Teacher’s Union President Marietta English.

Leaders are focusing on the geographical cost of education index funding, also known as GCEI, which provides money for districts where the cost of education is higher compared to the state’s average.

Governor Larry Hogan’s office points out that their investment in the GCEI is optional and that “Governor Hogan is fully committed to ensuring every child has access to a quality education and the administration will be carefully evaluating the best use of all taxpayer dollars going forward.”

School leaders say $68 million has been cut from 13 districts, including $11.6 million from Baltimore City’s public schools. If the funding is not released, vital school programs and even teaching positions could get cut. In Baltimore City, 191 teaching positions and more than $61,000 are now on the chopping block for the 2016 fiscal year.

“What you all saw last week was not all of Baltimore but it is a part of Baltimore and is a part we should be concerned with,” said Senator Catherine Pugh.

The violence and chaos that blew up during the Freddie Gray protests demonstrate the need for change in Baltimore and the demand for investing in our city’s youth.

“A bunch of kids in our community that’s been frustrated for a while acted out and we understand if they have a fair chance, they will not be frustrated,” said grandparent Roxanne Allen.

City leaders are now turning to the governor to make the next move, saying students’ futures depend on it.

“Encourage our governor: `Write that check,'” Rawlings-Blake said. “You can do it today.”

Baltimore City has the highest funding per student in the state, costing around $12,000 a year compared to the state average, which is around $7,000.

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