In a strong show of support for Carroll County Superintendent Brian L. Lockard, the county Board of Education adopted a spending proposal last night for the 1998-1999 school year that calls for $3 million more than the the County Commissioners have said they will approve.
Board members said the $159,389,637 budget is a message to the County Commissioners that their bottom-line mentality on school spending must change or the quality of teaching and student academic performance will suffer.
"In the past three years, we've adhered to the county requests [for conservative budgets] and we've seen a leveling off of student achievement as measured by the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program results," said board president Scott Stone.
"It is time to stand up and say to the County Commissioners that maintenance of effort is insufficient and we need more money," said Stone.
Recent education budgets in Carroll County have followed the state's "maintenance of effort" law, which requires localities to maintain per-pupil spending on education or lose state funding.
Lockard's original proposal, unveiled last month, asked the commissioners for $2.6 million more than they had targeted for a school budget.
Stone said that he is confident the school board can work with the commissioners to bridge any gaps in school funding.
Before last night's meeting at Westminster High School, Lockard said that school officials had managed to trim $177,237 from the budget.
But the board agreed to add 17 teaching positions at a cost of $426,263 to reduce class sizes. Board members said it was important to take steps beyond just keeping pace with increasing enrollments. Carroll has the second-worst teacher student ratio in the state, based on the number of staff per 1,000 students.
The board's action brings to 31.5 the total number of teaching positions in the budget dedicated to reducing class sizes. Eight positions will be at the secondary levels and 20.5 will be at the elementary grades.
Lockard concentrated the positions in the earlier grades where students need more staff time for reading instruction.
Board member Ann Ballard strongly recommended that more of the new teachers be assigned to the middle and high schools.
"There are a lot of programs, like advanced placement classes, that we have to address," Ballard said. "If we don't we'll be way behind," she warned. "You can't sit in a classroom with 38 students."
The budget also includes 25 teaching positions to keep pace with an expected 596 new students next year.
Carroll's projected 2.3 percent increase in the student population is the second-highest growth in the Baltimore metropolitan area, behind Howard County's expected 2.5 percent increase.
The school budget will go the County Commissioners, who will vote on it in the spring as part of the county's general spending plan.
Last night's meeting hearing drew at Westminster High School drew about 30 parents and 20 school administrators.
Jean Wasmer, PTA president at Charles Carroll Elementary School, urged the board to fund a teaching assistant principal position at the school, which is the smallest in the county with approximately 380 students. According to school policy, the school's low enrollment doesn't justify an assistant principal.
"Our teachers should not have to assume principal duties as well as teacher and classroom duties," Wasmer said. "Yes, our numbers are small, but the needs of our students are not reflected by those numbers."
The board said that the issue is a policy matter and should not be addressed at a budget meeting. The two public hearings on the proposed school budget drew few parents and citizens.
At the second hearing earlier this month, parents urged school officials to continue to support special education programs. The proposed $12.6 million special education budget is a 7.2 percent increase over last year's budget. The school system has 3,772 students enrolled in special education programs, 253 more than at this time last year.
The budget includes $972,000 for staff for the new Linton Springs Elementary School and the expanded Francis Scott Key High and Elmer Wolfe Elementary schools, plus additional custodians and other staff for a new central office.
Also included in the spending proposal is $189,000 for additional technology education equipment.
Pub Date: 2/24/98