School budget compromise Howard County: Council should approve an education outlay that will do more than tread water.

May 15, 1998

THE POLITICS played to get public schools in Howard County funded at an adequate level has been awful. Unfortunately, it also seems to have been necessary. Despite all the shouting by parents and petitioning by school children, there is no agreement yet to increase the funding offered to schools by County Executive Charles I. Ecker.

At least three compromise proposals have been suggested.

But County Council members who apparently haven't finished posturing on the subject say they won't vote before next week.

It was clear at a work session Wednesday with the school board that the council had exhausted all of the legitimate questions it had about increases in the education budget. As council members continued to query specific items, they appeared more desperate than meticulous -- groping to find some shortcoming that would indicate the Board of Education had not a done a thorough job of cutting waste and frivolity from its spending plan.

The board members meekly endured the questions' innuendo. Perhaps they were still embarrassed by demonstrations apparently orchestrated by school system personnel to get Mr. Ecker to change his mind.

Some teachers reportedly gave students extra credit to attend a May 7 public hearing on schools funding. Mr. Ecker justifiably complained that students were being used as "pawns." But more than 800 people attended the hearing and not all of them were promised an "A" grade.

Mr. Ecker rightly stresses that his proposed budget includes an $11 million increase in school funding. But with the economy booming and the burgeoning school system still recovering from meager recession-era budgets, the board is telling him that's not enough.

The County Council is weighing options to increase Mr. Ecker's school budget by $1.4 million, $4.7 million, or $7.1 million. It must decide not only what the schools need to preserve the quality of education, but what they need to do an even better job.

Pub Date: 5/15/98

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