Parents decry classroom program cuts More reductions may be in store, superintendent warns

300 attend hearing

Audience offers suggestions for avoiding cutbacks

January 24, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

For more than two hours at a public hearing last night, parents decried deep cuts to classroom programs in next year's proposed education budget for Carroll County.

Superintendent Brian Lockard's proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, which threatens deep cuts, could be cut even more, he told parents last night at the first of three hearings on the spending plan.

The hearing at North Carroll High School in Hampstead drew more than 300 people, and parents had varied suggestions for avoiding cuts.

"I have appointments already set up for next week with our delegation in Annapolis to discuss unfunded state mandates," said Patricia Holbert, PTO vice president at Friendship Valley Elementary School.

"I do not believe in rolling over and playing dead," said Ms. Holbert, whose family moved to the county a year ago because of the good reputation of its schools.

Some speakers decried the proposed elimination of the Extended Enrichment Program for gifted children, which parents have always said was inadequate to start with.

"Being gifted does not guarantee a student success," said Spring Garden Elementary parent Janet Cooke.

"Gifted students need challenges. They are our future doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers and parents.

"Resist the temptation to accept mediocrity as the best we can do," Ms. Cooke said.

Cindy Reedy, president of the Spring Garden PTA, took a more aggressive stance, looking through the budget proposal and making her own suggestions for cuts that totaled more than $300,000, such as security guards for games.

"Raise the price of tickets," she said. "That's $29,000, and I want another teacher instead of security guards."

Maggie Wunderlich, 11, defended the elementary instrumental music program for fourth- and fifth-graders, which could be eliminated.

"I would never have known how to play the clarinet if it wasn't for my elementary school instrumental music teacher, Mr. [Jeff] Hines," said Maggie, a sixth-grader at North Carroll Middle School.

The proposed fiscal 1997 budget calls for spending $143,449,246, 6.74 percent more than in the current budget.

The spending plan exceeds by about $3.3 million the preliminary bottom line the County Commissioners have drawn, and they have indicated no interest in raising taxes.

Most of the increase results from growth -- the schools expect 902 additional students next year. School officials have said that keeping up with that expected growth and shrinking state aid will force them to cut into programs for the first time and to consider asking employees to forgo their raises, which has happened before.

Gail Harry, a North Carroll parent who has a daughter in middle school and one in high school, chastised administrators for not cutting their own salaries. "I don't mind a 3 percent [salary] increase, but don't take from my children. You got to cut from the top. You can't cut anymore from the bottom."

Just over half the schools budget comes from county money, and about 40 percent comes from the state.

The board will hold two more public hearings -- Feb. 6 at Liberty High School and Feb. 14 at Westminster High School, both beginning at 7 p.m.

At the Feb. 14 hearing, the board is expected to vote on the proposal and forward it to the County Commissioners.

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