Baltimore United in Leadership Development (BUILD) swarmed City Hall to demand a resolution to the $130 million Baltimore City schools budget on March 8.

Pastors, activists and parents gathered at Baltimore City Hall to hand deliver letters to Mayor Catherine Pugh and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young at a morning Board of Estimates meeting.

Activists, parents and pastors line up at City Hall to demand resolution to Baltimore City’s public school $130 million deficit. (Photo by J.K. Schmid)

Activists, parents and pastors line up at City Hall to demand resolution to Baltimore City’s public school $130 million deficit. (Photo by J.K. Schmid)

Young expressed a willingness to work with BUILD to reach a solution and Pugh committed to a March 20 deadline, said Dr. Douglas J. Miles, Bishop of Koinonia Baptist Church and co-chair Emeritus of BUILD.

BUILD plans to deliver additional letters to Gov. Larry Hogan, Delegate Maggie McIntosh, City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises, and Marietta English, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

“All the adults need to get in a room and solve this $130 million deficit to keep our children harmless from budget cuts,” Miles told the AFRO. “As they fill that gap they cannot cut other services to young people. If these budget cuts go through, the city may as well hang up a sign that says ‘Closed for Business.’”

A copy of the letter, provided to the AFRO, addressed to Mayor Pugh, said the group was concerned that students will be caught in the political crossfire. The group is hoping to hold an “accountability assembly” to find a budgetary fix at some time in the near future.

Despite increasing property values in some parts of Baltimore, and by extension, tax values, tax revenue is not keeping up due to tax increment financing and other business development pilot programs, said Stephanie Safran, parent of a second grade student at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School and co-chair of Family and Community Engagement.

Roland Park faces a $1.5 million budget cut under the current budget, Safran said.

“Every school in the city is in the same situation,” Safran said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are 191 public schools in the city, with 83,800 students, and 914 certified instructional teachers.

The Rev. Glenn Huber, interim Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, was one of those who came to personally deliver the letters.

Huber has been in Baltimore for seven years and every year she’s been a part of a fight with Annapolis to ensure students have adequate funding, she said.

 “The urgency for the principals, for the teachers, and parents is such that we need to know what’s happening,” Huber told the AFRO. “What kind of money are the teachers looking at? What are the real cuts that are going to impact our schools. That’s why we’re here today, to increase the urgency.”