More Bang For The Buck

Readers write

June 23, 1991

From: Carl D. Rogers


As a member of the County Council Budget Advisory Board I found it a case of useless futility except as a learning experience for me.

One of my main concerns for the taxpayers is the school budget. Ittakes more than 50 percent of our local taxes plus a considerable amount of our state and federal taxes. I feel that there must be a better way we can get more bang for the buck.

I am very pro-education.I had to quit school in the seventh grade. I know what it's like to be refused jobs and promotions because of lack of education. Something is wrong with our system when eighth-graders don't know fifth-grademath, seniors graduating can hardly read, write, know simple historyor geography. You mostly hear that all you need is more money. Everysurvey which has been taken shows more money will not solve the problem. In fact, the problem probably could be solved with less money.

Let's look at some things which happened or did not happen at the council budget hearings. We did not receive a copy of the school budget until more than two hours into the questioning. None of us could really ask questions on the current budget as we did not have time to review it.

It was stated class sizes need to be reduced and teachers given raises. At an average of 25 student per teacher, they couldn't do an effective job; teachers were overworked and underpaid. Why can't a person teaching one subject teach 25 to 30 students properly? Iquestioned why eighth- and ninth-graders don't know multiplication tables and graduating students can hardly read, write, know simple history, geography or what 12 times 12 is. I was chastened by one council person who acted as if I was criticizing students for not wanting to learn. The remarks were, "Let's give credit to the thousands of students who want to learn."

I don't think there are any bad students. We just have some poor teachers. I quote Vartan Gregorian, president of Brown University: "Students don't fail -- teachers fail."

I believe there are a lot of excellent dedicated teachers; we just need more of them.

People entering the teaching profession know what they are getting into before they entered it. It is the only professionthat you spend from the first grade through four years of college seeing what you will be doing as a teacher. If you cannot be creative, motivating, dedicated, take what you have learned from your best teachers and try to improve on it so that you can inspire students to learn, then you are in the wrong profession. Our teachers must bring theaverage and below-average student to the grade level they teach.

Surveys show the reasons for teaching careers are: wanting to help others, job security, good benefits, early retirement, 36-week work year, off when children are off, no traveling, good pay, easier to get aliberal arts degree than a specialized degree. Surveys show Marylandteachers are the sixth highest-paid teachers in the United States.

Starting pay in Harford County is approximately $610 a week for a 40-week work year. Engineers must work 52 weeks a year, must travel and spend many weeks away from home, work many weekends, continuing education monthly, harder degree to obtain and still have approximately the same weekly starting salary with less benefits.

I wanted to know what was the ratio of administrative help to teachers, and I stilldon't know. Research by David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, states schools have become backward, overstaffed and operated for the convenience of bureaucrats and are becoming more incapable every year of keeping up with our society.

If politics wereremoved and you hired a corporate executive instead of an educator to run our school system, we could probably have a better education system with a substantial reduction in cost.

Most statements referred to this school budget as a $2.8 million increase. It actually was an $8.8 million increase, counting the $6 million from the state and federal government. All other departments were remaining the same or taking decreases. One council person even chastened Dr. Keech for not spending money to hold breakfast and night meetings like last

year, and to try and sell getting the $15 million restored to the budget.

One council person's main concern was getting six to eight art teachers added to the first and second grades, rather than reduce classsizes. I am sure some parents feel their children will become futureRembrandts, but why should taxpayers have to foot the bill? Next year, when some parents want their children to become future Claudio Arrau, it will only be fair to hire a few classical pianist teachers forthem. What about children wanting to play the violin, etc.?

Most council members were more concerned trying to find ways to increase the school budget than finding ways to get a better education with less taxpayers' money. They got their wish.

They increased the budgetby another $900,000 with six more art teachers, giving the school system a $9.7 million increase over last year, taking it away from other needed programs. And the other departments had to settle for the same or less than last year. I don't see how our children will get any better education now.

I think the taxpayers will have to wake up and decide whether we want politicians and bureaucrats to continue to give our children a poor education or get back to a system where our children and grandchildren are No. 1 in education as we once were, orbe taxed into the poorhouse.

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