Budgetary arrogance School board's educational authority does not override county's fiscal authority.

May 26, 1998

MEMBERS OF the Anne Arundel County Board of Education should remember the old adage that even the U.S. Supreme Court pays attention to election results. The school board's insistence on rejecting any conditions on next year's $454 million education budget is wrongheaded and may be a self-defeating strategy.

The board seems intent on ignoring not only the budget priorities of County Executive John G. Gary, but those of the council as well. Board members charge that these elected officials are "meddling" in education.

Ironically, the politicians are the ones arguing for more money to be funneled to the classroom, while the board wants to spend on teacher raises and health care. The board seems to be using its role as "guardians of education" as a smokescreen, when, in fact, elected officials have been more insistent on investing in new teachers and smaller classes.

Board members may not like Mr. Gary or the seven council members placing conditions on education spending, but the charter clearly gives those officials responsibility for fiscal affairs.

If the elected officials tried to determine the reading list for ninth-graders or the job requirements for assistant principals, the executive and council wouldn't have a legal leg to stand on. However, elected officials do have final say in financial matters, even those regarding education. That's why the charter allows the council to add to as well as subtract from the school budget. This year, thanks to the school board's behavior, the council may be in a mood to cut.

If the council determines that money should not be spent on across-the-board raises, that is a fiscal issue, more than an educational one.

The board can become indignant about the county executive and council seeking to rearrange education spending.

But its appointed members must acknowledge that these elected representatives, by virtue of having to face the voters, more closely reflect the public's will.

Pub Date: 5/26/98

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