Parham's reasonable budget request Anne Arundel County: Superintendent's plan would aid class size, discipline, special ed.

January 14, 1998

CAROL S. PARHAM'S request for a 12 percent increase -- $52 million -- in operating funds for the Anne Arundel County school system is reasonable on its face.

Before critics act instinctively to slash the superintendent's request, they should recall that school budgets of the past seven years were anything but extravagant.

With 1,000 more students expected in the system next fall, spending would have to increase simply to maintain the student-to-teacher ratio.

This is also the first year of a plan to reduce class size -- an initiative publicly supported by County Executive John G. Gary.

The system needs more teachers to reduce the average first-grade class from 25 to 22 students.

Dr. Parham also is asking for a significant increase in the number of guidance and psychological counselors.

Since the system has adopted a strict discipline policy, punishment has been its major feature.

Dr. Parham correctly believes that trying to help troubled students change their behavior is just as important as punishing them. Maintaining a systemwide, in-school suspension program requires more counselors and assistant principals. She is also asking for more custodians to handle the increase in the number of school buildings.

Her request also includes more money for special education.

Spending on children with learning and emotional problems has increased 80 percent during the past eight years, in large part because of federal mandates.

To help meet these additional requirements, Dr. Parham wants to add 81 teachers and teaching assistants to the county's special education programs.

The superintendent also wants more computers, textbooks and educational materials.

This is not a pie-in-the-sky budget. It calls for investments in programs that have been approved and should be funded so they can succeed.

In recent years, the county was not generating enough revenue to finance many of these programs.

With the economy in good shape, county coffers enjoying a surplus and the state of education perpetually a hot topic, the coming year is the appropriate time to begin addressing areas of concern.

Pub Date: 1/14/98

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