ANNAPOLIS — Carroll principals, teachers, administrators and others joined educators from across Maryland on the State House steps yesterday to urge the governor to veto proposed cuts to schools.
In a districtwide meeting Monday, Superintendent R. Edward Shilling urged his staff to attend the rally to fight cost-cutting proposals that will have "devastating implications" on the 22,000-student school system.
A caravan of 10 school buses and numerous cars from Carroll converged on the state capital, where the participants joined with a coalition of education organizations fighting proposed cuts approved Friday by the General Assembly.
School board members, educators, parents and students hoped to persuade Gov. William Donald Schaefer to veto the legislation, which he is expected to act on Thursday. They also hoped to send a message to the governor and lawmakers to raise taxes to pay for education.
Specifically, educators are fighting a proposal to temporarily hold the state's contribution to teacher and librarian pensions at last year's level, a reduction of $20 million statewide, and about a $500,000 loss for Carroll.
They also are fightinga plan that would allow "boards of county commissioners to make cutsto school budgets as they see fit," Shilling said.
Rally organizers estimated the crowd at the State House at about 10,000. About 500 from Carroll attended the event, said Cindy Cummings, president of the Carroll County Education Association, which represents about 1,300 teachers.
Protesters carried signs that read "If the governor doesn't pay, our children will," and "Keep funding. Cut the tests. Cut the governor's salary, staff and stupid ideas."
Carroll educators said the most impressive speaker was a Howard County student, who said,"Excellence in education should be a standard, not a goal."
The loss of teacher pension money, school officials said, would be felt inCarroll classrooms. That's because the employer's share of the benefits is fixed under state and federal law. If the state does not pick up the cost, the county and school board must.
The Carroll school board, like other county agencies, is struggling with 2 percent to 5 percent in reductions to the system's $107 million budget, about which half is financed by the county commissioners.
The cuts are beingsought by the commissioners, who are reacting to projected losses instate dollars.
"If I could send a message, it would be for the public to call their legislators and tell them they want a tax increase," Cummings said.
Although the proposed cuts have shocked teachers, Cummings said she didn't think the budget deficit and its impact were reaching the public.
"It's not really going to hit home with them until cut things like football," she said.
And educators are fearful more cuts will come, especially with the state projecting a $1 billion budget deficit in fiscal 1993.
Equally distressing, they say, is the proposal that would allow county commissioners to line-item veto expenditures in the school budget.
"That is one of my majorconcerns," said Board President John D. Myers. "I'm confident about our own commissioners, but I'm elected like they are and I think I have just as much expertise as they do to decide our priorities."
Commissioner Elmer Lippy said he had no desire to audit or make line-item reductions to the Board of Education budget. He said commissionerswill work with the school board, like other county agencies, to makenecessary cuts.
But, he said, "Since the Board of Education budget does absorb 50 percent of the county's operating budget and since, we, the commissioners, are held accountable and are responsible for other activities in the county, it would not be unreasonable to have more of asay."
However, Shilling said responsibility for the financial situation does not lie with the commissioners, but the legislature.
"It's about time we got off our collective rear ends," Shillingtold his staff at Monday's meeting. "On a personal basis, you shouldfeel betrayed by what's going on in the legislature."
He said thecommitments lawmakers made to the teacher pension fund and educationare no longer being honored.
Four Westminster High School students drove to the rally to protest the cuts.
"I want to be a teacher so whatever happens now will effect me later," said Missy Webb, a 16-year-old senior.
Matt Bien, a Carrolltowne Elementary motor development teacher, said he was concerned about further cuts.
"The president and the governor speak about education as the key to the future," he said. "But the steps they're taking now are not going to make the future any brighter."
Shilling, though, has promised to not make cuts to staff this fiscal year.
"I am willing to cut everything in this budget of a non-salary nature,' he said. "Good people are more important to whether kids learn than textbooks or materials."
However, he warned that if the cuts grow as they are expected to next fiscal year, the implications will be worse for Carroll.
"Some of you won't be sitting in this auditorium next year," he said.