Restore school cuts, council urged

May 11, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

School officials who lobbied the County Council during a daylong budget meeting yesterday were joined last night by union officials and parents at a public hearing, and the groups urged that $10.6 million in cuts be restored to the proposed education budget.

Among the cuts the groups want restored are 20 new teaching positions, which they said will be needed for the 2,000 additional students expected to enter county schools in September.

County Executive Robert R. Neall cut $10.6 million from the $419 million sought by the Board of Education for fiscal year 1995 that begins July 1. In making those cuts, Mr. Neall funded 31 new teachers. The board asked for 51.

"If these positions are deleted, we are faced with the unfortunate realities of increased class size at all levels -- elementary, middle and high school," school board President Thomas Twombly told the council during the earlier budget meeting in Annapolis.

Superintendent Carol S. Parham said the schools need every penny they asked for.

"When our school board proposed a budget of $419 million for the upcoming school year, every dollar was backed by a rationale," Dr. Parham said. "We believe every dollar is needed. In fact, we consider the proposed . . . budget to be a lean budget and one based on necessities."

School and union officials asked that $3.1 million for longevity pay increases for school workers be restored. The longevity increases have already been granted to all other county employees and were promised to the teacher and school secretary unions in exchange for their dropping a lawsuit to recoup pay union members gave up during 3.2 furlough days in 1992.

"Given the fact that [other] county employees have received the benefit of such an adjustment, I see this issue as one of equity," Dr. Parham said.

Teachers union President Thomas J. Paolino told the council at last night's hearing that Mr. Neall was trying to prevent the Board of Education from fulfilling its part of the agreement.

"We know that this council recognizes the sanctity of contracts," Mr. Paolino said.

School officials also asked the council to restore $1.6 million to begin creating a computer network system -- called the Advanced School Automation Project -- that will enable every school to hook into the computer superhighway.

"For the price of a local telephone call, I can talk to a scientist in Melbourne, Australia," said Dr. James Hamilton, who heads a task force studying the network.

At last night's budget hearing at Old Mill High School, 37 of about 75 people in attendance signed up to speak. Most of them commented on school staffing and construction.

Alan Lang, representing the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs, gave the council his organization's list of the five most needed school construction or renovation projects: Park Elementary, South Shore Elementary, Marley Middle, Andover Middle and Ridgeway Elementary. Of those, Park, South Shore and Andover are scheduled for funding in the proposed capital budget.

Mr. Lang also urged the council to postpone funding for a $26 million addition to Broadneck High School because "its prohibitive cost is a luxury that the school system cannot afford, as its construction would delay the renovation of many older schools in far worse physical condition."

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