Today the Board of Education will vote on next year's budget directly after a hastily-rescheduled work session which begins at 8 am. Although so much has happened since this time last year, in many ways we are exactly where we were. Do we have any reason to believe that this year's vote will be different?
Last night I re-read Board Member Bess Altwerger's statement on the occasion of last year's budget. It's chilling to me that absolutely no progress has been made on any of her points of concern. Take a moment to read it. It's a beautiful combination of respect, courtesy, and dissent. And it floors me that our board as a whole hasn't addressed any of these concerns. Not one.
As a community we have worked to make changes for our schools, most notably at the polls and in Annapolis. Parents, teachers, and community members are awakened and engaged and active in the cause of improving our schools. Our County Council is responding to issues of accountability and transparency.
This does not change the fact that in December we will have a better board of education, but now, as the budget vote looms, we do not.
Today community members will be in attendance at Central Office. They will be wearing blue to support the teachers who cannot be present due to the last-minute time change of the meeting. They will be there as witnesses, to be the eyes of the community. Their presence says that, no matter what happens at today's meeting, these things will not change:
- Our community supports teachers
- Our community continues to work for a better board of education
- Our community will support the work of elected officials who share these goals, and hold accountable any elected officials who obstruct them*
Last year, Bess Altwerger said,
After deep reflection, I have decided to vote against the budget in accordance with my own conscience and best judgement, and in response to the public comments and testimonies coming from educators, parents and community members who believe that this budget does not reflect the priorities that have kept our schools among the best in the state and the nation. I agree with many of their concerns.
Priorities. That's it in a nutshell. If the Superintendent and the Board use the budget impasse as a tool to violate negotiated agreements with teachers, then their priorities will be quite clear. A budget should not be used as a weapon against those who are unable to fight back. If it is used in this way it will wound not only teachers and staff, but our children.
Keep your eyes open, Howard County. There's six months until December and it looks like it's going to be a bumpy ride.
*That last one may bear revisiting. Pay close attention to how the budget circus plays out.