The school budget season is upon us, and the Superintendent's budget proposes make cuts to kindergarten para-educators, media para-educators and media secretaries. We are assured that these cuts must be made in order to have funds to hire teachers for the expected new enrollment of approximately 1645 children. If only it were that simple. It's not.
First of all, cuts to services that directly impact childen should be the very last thing we are considering. Para-educators provide direct support to students, and media secretaries perform work that allows media specialists to work directly with students. Research and common sense show that, especially in vulnerable populations, the building of sustained relationships is crucial for academic and emotional success.
So, what have we been spending money on in Howard County that causes the Superintendent to suggest that cutting back on student services is necessary and appropriate?
Almost a million dollarsOver five hundred thousand dollars in salary for free-lance lawyers being paid to litigate against the parents of special needs children. (Thanks to Cindy Vaillancourt for the correction.)
- Hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Gallup Organization for a program to show that teachers and students are "engaged"
- Hundreds of thousands of dollars to an outside consultant to evaluate our special education programs who--guess what?--recommends cutting back on support staff to students.
I can't for the life of me understand why such decisions were made. Not only are they counterproductive to the mission of the Howard County Public Schools, they show a profound disregard for what it means to have a sensible budget and intelligent priorites. From Vision 2018:
"Every student is inspired to learn and empowered to excel."
"We cultivate a vibrant learning community that prepares students to thrive in a dynamic world"
As a parent and a teacher I know that building relationships is the biggest part of inspiring and empowering students to learn. It is those relationships which are necessary to create and sustain vibrant learning communities. Please write to these people(see below) to let them know you want to see our school system place the highest priority on expenditures which support human relationships and service to students.
Do it now. The Board of Education votes on acceptance of the Superintendent's Proposed Budget this Tuesday morning, February 24th. The Board has the power to change the budget before submitting it to the County Executive.
The entire State of Maryland is dealing with a budget shortfall. As citizens we understand that adjustments may have to be made. Please let your elected officials know that you know where our priorites should be: in nurturing our students.