Parham's administrative ax

January 18, 1995

Anne Arundel County School Superintendent Carol S. Parham is calling the bluff of critics who say the school system doesn't need more money because it wastes what it has on administrative bureaucracy.

Dr. Parham is proposing to the school board a $437.7 million operating budget that would eliminate 21 administrative positions and use the $1 million savings to buy textbooks and other instructional materials. She also plans to drop the school system's adult education program, leaving that work to the community college.

Dr. Parham gets an "A" for listening to politicians when they were lining up during last fall's election to criticize public schools for wasteful spending.

But other school officials must have been playing hooky at the time. In contrast to Dr. Parham's politically savvy move, Howard School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey recently proposed a 5.6 percent increase in the Howard schools budget and refuses to cut the $7 million his county spends on school administration.

In the past, Anne Arundel school officials also resisted administrative cuts, contending to critics that administrative costs account for only 3 percent of the school system's budget.

Even though Anne Arundel spends less on administration that other jurisdictions, the astute Dr. Parham showed she understands the political game.

Don't be mistaken, she is not talking about cutting the school system's budget. She even wants to increase the operating budget by $51 million over the current spending plan.

But Dr. Parham hopes that by eliminating 21 administrative positions and redirecting the savings into textbooks, she will be able to diffuse criticism from the new conservative County Council and persuade its members to give her money for projects she really wants, such as the controversial and expensive computer networking system called the Advanced School Automation Project.

Cuts in the administrative positions will account for only a small percentage of the overall school budget, but Dr. Parham is moving in the right direction with her first budget.

If the school board goes along with the cuts, the changes would restore more authority to teachers and principals. And at least some money would be taken from the bureaucrats and given to the students.

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