Crowing about education Anne Arundel County: If Gary wants to take credit for gains, budget priorities must match.

December 19, 1996

THE OLD ADAGE "success has one thousand fathers and failure is an orphan" aptly describes John G. Gary's recent newsletter about education.

With Anne Arundel schools performing well and parents generally pleased with the school system, everyone wants to take credit, including the county executive.

Instead of taking offense at Mr. Gary's boasting, education activists should be overjoyed that he is acting like the rooster who thought his crowing caused the sun to rise. By linking himself to the schools' success, Mr. Gary has even more of a vested interest in continuing the policies that produced such praiseworthy results.

When the system says it needs more teachers, as it did last fall when it sought 20 additional instructors, Mr. Gary will have to think twice about the political consequences of refusing the request. If the system's performance should falter, he will have to shoulder some blame if he's willing to take credit for the good news.

Ironically, his education newsletter was produced prior to the release of the county's recent Maryland School Performance Assessment Program scores.

Anne Arundel had the most improvement among large subdivisions. Had those facts been available, Mr. Gary undoubtedly would have taken some credit for the 10-point jump in test results, too.

Given the structure of county government, Mr. Gary has limited influence in formulating education policy. His real control is over the money required to put policies into action.

During the past budget cycle, Mr. Gary angered the Board of Education when he shaved $12 million from its proposal. Should the board again request more than the minimum needed to run the schools, Mr. Gary is likely to cut the budget again.

His strategy may not work as well this time, however.

Even though the county executive thinks the school system is well funded, parents scrambling to collect cash-register tapes for computer equipment or to hold bake sales to purchase textbooks or worrying about shortages of space may not be as easily convinced that the schools are adequatedly financed, regardless of Mr. Gary's newsletters.

Pub Date: 12/19/96

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