Parents ask board to save new teacher, book funding Superintendent's budget calling for $241.9 million must be cut by $2 million

February 07, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Parents concerned about the impact of budget reductions urged the Howard County school board last night to preserve the new teachers and money for textbooks in Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's proposed $241.9 million operating budget.

"Please do all that is within your authority to maintain the proposed instructional staffing during your difficult budget deliberations," said Sherry Wainger of the Howard County PTA Council.

Dr. Hickey's proposed operating budget for 1996-1997 calls for an $11 million -- or 5 percent -- increase over this year's budget. He said the spending plan will do little more than pay for enrollment growth and three new schools set to open next fall.

But the school board will have to cut at least $2 million from the proposal before it submits the plan to County Executive Charles I. Ecker because the state has reduced its estimate of how much funding it will provide next year.

The budget likely will need to be cut even more because the proposal does not include pay raises for teachers and other personnel, which are being negotiated.

During last night's hearing, parents spent more time focusing on what they believe should be funded, including the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP), a teen pregnancy program and several central office supervisors.

Last year, as the board made its final adjustments to balance the budget for the current year, members chose not to allocate $50,000 in new funds to hire more BSAP academic monitors to help lower-achieving black students.

Nearly a dozen parents and community activists urged the board last night not to do the same thing again, saying the program is working to help close the achievement gap between black students and white students.

The improvement of black students "reflects a substantial return for the dollars spent for BSAP initiatives," said Natalie Woodson, education chairwoman of the Howard County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "There is a continuing need for support and services to address the academic needs of our African-American students."

Several groups asked the board to retain some central office administrators -- including those in math, science, music and pupil personnel -- whose positions Dr. Hickey wants to eliminate.

In November, as part of Dr. Hickey's efforts to cut administrative costs, 15 central office employees received notices telling them their positions were being eliminated for next year.

But last night, the county's math advisory committee asked that the central office position of high school math resource teacher be kept a full-time position instead of being reduced to half-time.

And the county's science advisory committee asked to keep the high school science resource teacher a full-time one, too.

In addition to asking the board to maintain proposed funding for supplies, textbooks and teachers, the PTA Council was the only group to suggest several cuts. The suggestions included:

* Ground maintenance that does not affect pupil safety.

* Media purchases for new schools that could be deferred.

* Central office clerical and secretarial support staff. The council suggested that greater use of voice mail and computers might allow some positions to be eliminated.

The council also recommended that the school system study whether setting up a central textbook inventory would save money and whether Howard schools offer a benefits package that is more generous than other systems'.

To combat rising class sizes in the high schools, the council suggested that the board allow athletic directors and academic department heads one planning period instead of two.

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