Priming the Private Sector Pump ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

February 24, 1993

As badly as the Anne Arundel County school system needs money, you'd think it would jump at the opportunity to attract thousands of dollars from the private sector. Instead, there's a chance the school board will reject that opportunity today by voting a new business-education partnership coordinator out of the fiscal 1994 budget.

Granted, from a strictly symbolic standpoint, creating a $50,000 administrative post is likely to go over like a lead balloon with teachers, who aren't getting a raise for a third straight year. And it may draw criticism from those who'd rather see the money pay for an extra guidance counselor than another body at school headquarters.

But board members -- who have long supported a business-education coordinator -- should look past the short-term symbolism to the long-term monetary benefits this position would bring.

Partnerships between schools and businesses are long past the experimental stage. All of the major Baltimore and Washington area jurisdictions have them, plus many smaller counties. The State Department of Education says these school systems benefit to the tune of millions of dollars worth of donations, volunteer hours, speakers, field trips, teacher workshops and the like.

Anne Arundel needs to ask itself: with state funding for schools getting tighter, and with the county laboring under the constraints of a property tax cap, can it afford to turn its back on this kind of assistance? Is it worth the price of a guidance counselor this year to reject the potential of hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of aid in future years?

Two questions board members have been asking -- and rightly so -- are how much a full-time coordinator should be paid and whether they can fill the job without hiring from outside. The board balked at Superintendent C. Berry Carter's original $70,000 figure, which was much higher than salaries in other counties. But the new $50,000 salary is on target and should not be an issue.

Whether the schools can fill the job by reorganizing existing administrative staff depends on whether it has someone qualified to do the job. If it does, and that person's old position can be eliminated, fine. If it doesn't, it would be foolish to cut corners on a job which, if performed properly, could bring in much more than it costs.

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