Hickey asks 5.6% more for schools

January 10, 1995|By Lan Nguyen zTC | Lan Nguyen zTC,Sun Staff Writer

Anticipating a record rise in enrollment next school year, Howard County School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey wants to increase school spending by 5.6 percent, or more than $12 million.

Dr. Hickey released yesterday a proposed $229.8 million budget for the school system's next fiscal year, a budget driven by the expectation that 1,800 more students will crowd into the 36,000-pupil system next fall. This would be the system's largest one-year enrollment increase ever.

The proposed budget, which must be approved by the County Council and county executive, includes money to address particular parental concerns: the need for more textbooks, more special education teachers and more teachers to staff schools with unexpected enrollment increases.

And it includes money to hire additional teaching aides to help certain groups of students: middle-schoolers in math, low-achieving black pupils and non-English speaking students.

"Growth, changing demographics and new external mandates confront us on a daily basis, but we are committed to providing the highest quality education program possible," Dr. Hickey's introduction to the budget proposal states. At a press conference, he said: "We're in the dilemma with heavy growth eating so much of the increase every year, with new needs coming along. [The budget proposal] may indeed be pushing the ability of the county to fund it."

The education budget annually represents more than half of the county's overall spending.

Under Dr. Hickey's proposal, the county would contribute $171.3 million, or 5.5 percent more than what it gave for this fiscal year's budget. The state would have to pay $55.5 million, and other sources would contribute the remaining $2.9 million.

Dr. Hickey said he left out many other needs that have been brought up by parents and community members, including the hiring of more psychologists and provision of full-time guidance counselors in elementary schools.

"We have once again a long list of maintenance work that needs to be done," he said. "We had to limit that severely."

Dr. Hickey noted that he did not increase spending for the school system's administration, which costs about $7 million a year. The amount includes salaries and expenses incurred by his office, the school board, the schools' public relations and human relations offices, and the system's legal expenses.

Dr. Hickey has asked the County Council not to trim the administrative category because the school system is in the middle of trying to chart a course for beyond 2000. He said yesterday that he plans to streamline the category once the initiative is finished next fall.

Not included in Dr. Hickey's proposed budget is money for salary raises for teachers, secretaries, maintenance workers and administrative employees.

The school system is still in negotiations and will add the salary increases later.

A 1 percent raise for the county's 2,520 teachers and principals would add $1.2 million to the budget, while the same raise for all of the school system's 4,300 employees would add $1.6 million, school officials estimated.

"We felt if we could bring in a budget that was a 5 percent increase before salaries, that it was a reasonable budget," Dr. Hickey said.

The proposed budget includes:

* Roughly $4 million to buy equipment, athletic gear and books for the two new high schools and one new elementary school scheduled to open in fall of 1996.

* More than $2.2 million to hire about 70 more teachers to deal with growth and to staff Elkridge Landing Middle School, scheduled to open next fall.

* $839,000 for textbooks, up $311,000 from last year. High schools going to a four-period day have compounded the need for additional textbooks because their students are taking more elective courses.

The short supply of books "continues to be a concern," Dr. Hickey said.

"Part of the problem is us not having a central book depository or clearinghouse. As a result, schools have their own collection of books not being used at any given time. That's something we're going to look at in the near future."

* An estimated $1 million to hire 43 teachers, classroom assistants and other personnel to manage "inclusion," or the mainstreaming of special education students. This has raised concerns among some parents and particularly teachers, who say they need more help in the classroom to work with special education students.

* About $1.4 million to increase the number of teachers in a "pool" to fill positions at schools with unexpected enrollment increases. Many parents complained this year after school officials pulled teachers from classrooms two weeks into the new year to fill spots at other schools.

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