"We've done a lot of research and it appears that the block-grant approach could be done," Lever said. "The question is: If the amount of state funding decreases in the future, where does that leave the other districts, and where does it leave the state's flexibility to respond to emergencies?"
Lever had just received the city plan, and said staffers in his office was preparing to pore over it to determine if they would support it this year.
He said there are four key components of a viable program of this magnitude: educational vision; the 10-year plan, a management plan, and a financial plan.
"All of those have to work together," he said. "Right now, the educational vision is well-developed, the management plan has been presented to us in concept, and the financial plan, we have not seen yet. When we see how they work together, and develop a high level of confidence to carry out a $2.4 billion project, then we'll be in a good position to move forward."
A new component of the city system's plan is the creation of an independent school construction authority that would oversee several aspects of the sweeping program.
State lawmakers said the authority will play a crucial role in boosting confidence in the system's ability to be good stewards of taxpayer funds. The plan comes in a year marked by a series of financial missteps and questionable spending under Alonso's administration.
In the 2012 General Assembly session, the city opposed legislation proposed by Baltimore Del. Kieffer J. Mitchell Jr. — who has repeatedly called for more oversight in the system — to create the authority. The bill died in committee, but he plans to refile the authority bill in the 2013 session, and will meet with Alonso in the coming weeks to discuss it.
"The underlying theme in Annapolis was the accountability piece, and that's why I had proposed the schools construction authority," Mitchell said. "So, it's encouraging that there's a plan with that" built in.
Alonso said in a statement that the system was focused on developing the block-grant concept last year, and was not ready to commit to something it hadn't fully vetted.
"A year later, we understand that an authority is instrumental in securing the necessary support to gain legislative approval of the 10-year plan," he said. "And we have had the time to explore all legal aspects and the possible role of the district and its partners in the oversight of this work."
Alonso said the membership and parameters of the authority would be public when legislation is introduced, but its main purpose would be fiscal and management oversight. The final decisions on the plan would still ultimately lie with the school board.
Mitchell said he believes that while the plan is still a heavy lift, the city's combined strength can do it.
"The frustration I had last year was that the mayor and school system were singing off of different music pages, it was evident from the hearings, and from talking to my colleagues from different jurisdictions," Mitchell said. "But as long as we're all on the same page, let's get it done."