Anne Arundel County faces near-comatose revenue growth this year and next. It could lose up to $15 million in the next round of cuts in state aid. These circumstances dictate a county budget based on prudence and limited priorities. Yet the school system's $374 million spending blueprint for the next school year shows signs of neither.
Anne Arundel School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton is recommending a stunning 12.5 percent net increase in school spending of $42 million. The additional funding -- roughly what it takes to run the police or fire department -- would bankroll such things as 120 new teachers, 17 guidance counselors, nurses, psychologists, secretaries, clerical help, teacher sabbaticals, computers and software and technology for instructional support, minority college scholarships and private school tuition for severely emotionally disturbed children.
Some of these items are essential, such as new teachers to support a growth spurt of 2,700 kids and funding for troubled children. But much of this request is a wish list masquerading as a budget. We can't see where computers and teacher sabbaticals are critical to classroom instruction. The fiscal strains on local government are immense and, as Dr. Lorton well knows, necessarily radiate to education, which accounts over half of the county's budget.