Suzanne Grimes does not want to be asked to give up teaching. With 23 years of experience preparing youngsters from low-income families for first grade, she does not want her training wasted.
"I love what I do," Grimes said, as a pupil tugged at her skirt tail, wanting toshow off what she had discovered in the colorful room where nothing is off limits to small hands.
"To see their excited faces makes it all worthwhile. Some of these children have come literally not talking, and after a few weeks open up and are anxious to talk about everything."
Grimes' fate, as well as that of the Early Elementary Education Program for 4-year-oldsat Tyler Heights Elementary where she works, is up in the air as school officials grapple with constantly changing news about budget cuts.
Since yesterday, they have been trying to decipher Wednesday's 11th-hour state accord to replace money for some school programs. Legislators have restored $1.7 million statewide for pre-kindergarten programs, but $130,000 still may have to be cut locally from the $545,000 state grant for EEEP.
That likely would mean that four of the 10centers in operation for the last 14 years would have to close.
County officials are warning that teacher layoffs or pay concessions will be necessary to help cover the $7.9 million cutback in state aid to the county. Weeks ago, the school system was told by the county totrim $5.1 million from its $341 million school operating budget. Now, educators fear they'll be asked to cover half the $7.9 million cut.
In addition, the school system must come up with $1 million to pay for bus contracts and teacher sabbatical pay -- as well as $1 million to make up for matching employee Social Security benefits the state will no longer pay.
Earlier in the week, Deputy School Superintendent C. Berry Carter and Budget Officer Jack White put principals ona "budget alert," prompted by an expected $4.3 million cut in education money from the state. Those cuts technically have been restored, in favor of cutting state aid to the counties. School officials, however, say the result will be much the same.
"They (the state) are talking about reducing money normally sent to the county government," White said. "They are shifting the burden from education to the county, then the county will shift it back to education."
While school officials repeatedly have said they view layoffs as a last option, preferring instead to cut programs, a county spokeswoman said yesterdaythat staff cuts must come first.
"The county can't tell the boardhow to make cuts, though we want to be cooperative," countered Carter, who is filling in while Superintendent Larry L. Lorton recovers from surgery.
"We would not be willing to make concessions in pay," Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County President Tom Paolino said. "If the state and county want to completely dismantle education, they are going to have to do it."
Countywide Parent Teacher Association President Carolyn Roeding said her group, which includes 12,000 parents, is calling on the General Assembly to spare education from more cuts.
"As a parent, I don't see how they can cut education anymore than it has been cut," she said.
The memo sent out to principals provides some clue as to where school cuts may be made. In the one-page budget alert, school officials and parents are warned that buses for extracurricular activities would be cut. Layoffs are mentioned, and all non-classroom spending would be stopped. School materials and supplies funds would be frozen, and extracurricular pay for teachers would stop -- meaning an end to student after-school activities and winter and spring sports.