School chief asks for funds Students plead for programs

May 02, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Howard County School Superintendent Michael E. Hicke urged the County Council yesterday to affirm its support for "the most successful educational program in Maryland" by fully funding the school board's proposed operating and capital budgets for fiscal 1994.

"The request is a reasonable one in every respect," Mr. Hickey said. "Now is not the time to lessen our investment in the children of today and the leaders of tomorrow."

County Executive Charles I. Ecker trimmed the school board's $165 million operating request by $5.4 million, linking the cut to salaries. He wants school employees to receive a 1 percent raise -- which is what nonschool employees would average in his proposed budget.

The school board plans to give teachers a 2.5 percent raise June 30 and a 3 percent raise the next day, the beginning of the new fiscal year. The June 30 raise was negotiated as a part of last year's contract. The July 1 raise was negotiated as a part of this year's. The raises amount to "a reasonable increase for employees" and are "critical" to the success that the school system enjoys, Mr. Hickey told the council.

A recent survey showed "a disturbing minority of teachers would leave teaching" because of low salaries, increasing demands and declining resources, said James R. Swab, president of the Howard County Education Association. "Far too many educators work at night jobs to pay their bills."

FTC The school board has no intention of eliminating raises won through contract negotiations, so it must cut elsewhere if the budget is not fully funded, Mr. Hickey said. He told the council he had identified "some possible cuts" that equal the amount Mr. Ecker pared from the school request.

Many of the 42 speakers at yesterday's 4 1/2 -hour hearing are involved in projects listed among those possible cuts. They pleaded with the council -- often in deeply personal terms -- not to eliminate their programs.

Sixteen-year-old Mark Thompson, a sophomore starter on the Glenelg golf team, asked the council not to cut the $75,000 needed to keep golf and gymnastics as inter-scholastic sports.

"Basketball is one of my favorite sports, but I'm short -- 5-foot-2," he told the council. "For a while, I made up in determination what I lacked in size. But I'm just too short to play basketball at the high-school level. So I turned to golf, where size is not a factor."

Allowing 50 to 70 students to play on high-school golf teams costs the board of education only $17,500, teammate Andrea Bedingfield told the council.

"It has great benefits physically and socially throughout life," she said, and helps students such as her who are hoping to win an athletic scholarship to college.

Jocelyn Brooks, an assistant gymnastics coach at Glenelg, said gymnastics is one of the few sports programs for girls that is not modeled after the boys' program. In gymnastics, "Girls get the opportunity to be, not the best girl athlete [in a particular sport], but the best athlete" in the sport.

"I, for one, don't want to say that female-dominated sports are unimportant," she said. "We should not say that Howard County can only afford to make boys the best."

Parents and teachers of children with special needs brought their concerns to the council as well.

They worried about what would happen if nearly $600,000 for special education is cut from the budget. Elimination of those services could turn otherwise productive citizens into wards of the state and at far greater expense, they told the council.

Concern was also expressed that potentially saving $360,000 by starting school at 7:30 a.m. would pose a safety hazard for younger children and create a hardship for teen-agers, many of whom work at night.

There were objections to generating a potential $270,000 savings by increasing walking distances a quarter mile and to a possible $145,000 cut of five to 10 pool teachers.

Several people, including William Munn, president of the county's Chamber of Commerce, and Patrick Dornan, president of the Howard County Taxpayers Association, urged the council adopt the version of the budget pared by Mr. Ecker.

The council will conduct a work session on the education budget proposals at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

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