Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Shaming the Devil

One of the hardest things about being committed  to transparency and responsiveness is when you have to share bad new. Really bad news.

From Board Chair Cindy Vaillancourt:

We adopted a heartbreaking budget this evening.  We raised class sizes for all grades except kindergarten.  We suspended all elementary school foreign language.  We reduced the increases in special ed.  We reduced building maintenance.  We reduced our capital budget request.  

We did not include furloughs.  We restored playground monitors.  We added 66 special education staff (educators and para-educators).  We committed to funding the full 85% of the health insurance premiums.

But this is only the request.  If the county does not fully fund it, there will need to be more cuts.  

We need the community to contact the County Exec and the County Council to let them all know how they feel about fully funding education.

If we are to provide the level of service the community expects, we will need to be restored to 58% of the county budget --- not the 52% we have been reduced to over the past several years.  

Please consider attending the County Executive's budget public hearing on Thursday, March 8.

This is the truth of where we are. While on the one hand it is true that the Board is saddled with the consequences of financial mismanagement of previous leadership, on the other hand the fact is that County funding for the school system has been steadily decreasing over a number of years. We know all this because Ms. Vaillancourt is no longer prevented from seeing all the details of the school system’s financial workings, and is not prohibited from telling the public what she knows.

Remember, the watchword for the previous administration was “control the message.” Now we are seeing the unvarnished truth that those shiny new programs were designed to hide.

Well, “yay,” you think. At least then I didn’t know how bad it was. We could all pretend we had the very best, world class school system with the brightest, shiniest new programs ever.

Can we handle the truth?

Howard County voters elected a school board that would bring transparency, responsiveness, and accountability to the workings of our school system. It took a lot of grass-roots activism to get them there. Our work is not done, however. Please write to the County Executive and ask for a re-commitment for funding education at previous levels. If you can, attend the County Executive’s budget hearing on Thursday, March 8th to support full funding of the school budget.

I believe that this moment has been a long time in coming. I think that it has been known for quite some time that the County has not been funding the needs of our school system adequately. For a time, the distractions of dysfunctional leadership out on Route 108 masked the deeper problem. But now, here we are. Will we, as a community, make education the priority it needs to be in order for our children to flourish?

Send your letters here: akittleman@howardcountymd.gov

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