ANNAPOLIS — A group of North Carroll parents asked pointed questions of three Carroll delegates Monday about the future of their children's education, but they left frustrated by vague answers.
"They don't answer anything directly," said Carolyn MacKenzie, Carroll Council of PTAs president, following the half-hour discussion.
"I feel they're listening but not really hearing," said Carroll Education Association President Cindy Cummings, who joined the group.
The parents expressed concern about potential state cuts in education for the current fiscal year and the next one, which begins July 1. They said saddling county schools with further cuts will harm programs and instruction for students.
They urged the delegation to support full funding for APEX, the formula providing aid for education to regional jurisdictions. Full funding means an additional $6.3 million for Carroll's schools.
Candy Cole explained that her son had been receiving poor grades and reading below grade level until he was placed in a special-education program at Manchester Elementary. Now, the fifth-grader is getting A's and B's and reading at his grade level, she said. She said she fears special education would be one of the first areas to be cut.
The delegates -- Republicans Richard C. Matthews and Donald B. Elliott and Democrat Richard N. Dixon -- explained that solutions to budget deficits for both this year and next are in flux.
They gave little indication as to what they support. However, they agreed that APEX probably will be reduced next year and education likely will take some lumps.
Dixon, a House Appropriations Committee member, said there is room for cuts in education, and that specific determinations are up to the Board of Education.
"When we first had cuts in October ($1 million for Carroll schools), the school board said they couldn't make cuts," he said. "They made them, and no employees were laid off. I rest my case."
MacKenzie said, "Sooner or later these cuts are going to trickle down to the kids."
Gail S. Riley, a teacher's aide at Manchester Elementary, asked how the delegates would vote on APEX and proposed cuts in student transportation and special education. Dixon answered that legislators won't votespecifically on those issues but on an overall budget package.
Riley asked whether the delegates would support legislation enabling counties to raise income tax rates. She also asked if they would support rescinding a one-year waiver on a requirement that counties must maintain at least the same level of spending per pupil from year to year.
Dixon said he wasn't sure on both issues.
"Richard, you're not sure about anything," said Riley.
Following the meeting, Riley said the delegates implied that school administration should be cut, "but they won't tell (Superintendent R. Edward) Shilling."
School board candidate Scott Stone asked: "Don't you think you're possibly mortgaging our future? If we don't tend to the educational needs of our children, where will we be in five, 10, 15 years?"