Sunday, April 24, 2016

Budget Brouhaha

Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Reneé Foose, has submitted a request for a whopping $ 838.7 million for the 2017 year. County Executive Alan Kittleman has countered with the following:

Call it gamesmanship, upmanship, or an elaborate game of Chicken, but what is going on here has very real consequences for our children and our community. Dr. Foose's response to Mr. Kittleman's proposal has been highly critical. The Board of Education's response (at Thursday's board meeting) was to float ideas like increasing class sizes and instituting furlough days.
Not so fast.
Didn't your teachers remind you time and again to read the directions before you do your work? Read the excerpt from the budget again. The County Executive is directing full funding of special education, teacher raises, and instruction. The Superintendent and the Board should be looking to make cuts elsewhere.

My suggestion? Return public relations funding to 2012 levels as an austerity measure. Return legal staffing to an in-house team with a limited amount of money to spend litigating against parents. That should save a boatload of money right there.

Oh, and while we are at it, halt the expansion of the Elementary School Model to seven more schools, which appears to have been slipped into the budget with no communication whatsoever to the community. From Howard County Parents for School Music:

Please be aware. The HCPSS budget before the county council right now includes the expansion of elementary world language into 7 additional schools. We assume this means the Elementary School Model will be a component of this change. There has never been stakeholder input on completely changing the way our youngest students are taught, and this model reduces Art and Music by 25%, among other major changes. We believe that stakeholders deserve a say in this dramatic change, not to find it buried in a budget, whether you support it or not.

And another thing: absolutely no data has been shared on the value of this model, whereas there is plentiful data on how a robust arts education benefits students from early childhood onwards.
I know I've been exhorting you to get out the vote for Tuesday's election. That's a big job, and an important one. Please consider writing to your county council member today. They are now in the process of reviewing the budget. Ask them to halt funding for this expansion without community input. Ask that they endorse Mr. Kittleman's priorities in the school budget. Or better yet, go testify at the County Council meeting on Monday night.

Can the County Exective direct spending in this way? Can the County Council get involved in the school budget in this way? These are questions most people thought we'd never even have to ask, but these are extraordinary times. And those are our tax dollars they are charged with spending responsibly. It is never inappropriate to request that our elected public officials do their utmost in the wise stewardship of our resources.

Send a note, won't you?

And don't forget to vote.


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