At Howard County's spanking new Burleigh Manor Middle School, the industrial arts room will have a computer that allows students to design their own robots before they assemble them on the premises. And that is not all. Tucked in the county's wealthiest school district, Burleigh Manor has laser video disc players in its library, Nautilus machines in its "wellness laboratory," a fancy Jenn-Air range in home economics and a color television and rocking chair in every classroom. (The rocking chairs offer a comfortable environment whenever teachers or students need it.)
The adjectives and cliches that come to mind are so numerous we can hardly choose which one fits best. Perhaps a simple word or two about excessiveness and over-spending will suffice.
The lavish equipment bestowed upon Burleigh Manor says something about the inequities within Howard County, and indeed the whole state, when it comes to school funding. The simple and historical fact is that some schools, particularly new ones, get a lot more in terms of extras than other schools, particularly those in poor districts.
School officials are quick to point out that the funding for new schools comes out of the county's capital improvement budget, a combination of state and local financing that includes start-up money to equip new schools. Those start-up funds are used at the discretion of the school's principal.
Burleigh Manor's principal obviously was extremely creative. Undoubtedly, he understood the parents he needs to please once the school opens.
The problem, of course, is that existing schools are not so lucky. Their funds come out of operational budgets. Those are the funds that must also go toward textbooks, construction paper and salaries. They are also the budgets that face the ax in the midst of a state budget crisis.
The only hope for existing schools is that they get targeted for renovation. Unfortunately, in these tight economic times, renovation funds are some of the hardest to come by.
As the school year begins, some schools will open with a lot more to offer than others. The parents who send their children to Burleigh Manor should feel fortunate. As for many other parents in Maryland who must send their children elsewhere, they should feel cheated.