Dunce caps all around Education: Anne Arundel school board wants groups to pay for heat, but debate really needs light.

August 05, 1998

BY REQUIRING groups such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, youth athletic teams and drama clubs to pay for the cost of heating and air conditioning when they use public schools after hours, the Anne Arundel County Board of Education has gone too far. It should sit in a corner with a dunce cap, beside its nemesis, County Executive John G. Gary, and write 1,000 times on the blackboard: "We will not hold the public hostage again."

The board feels county government failed to allocate sufficient money to run the schools. Whether or not that is true, the board could find places to cut -- from insurance reserves to professional development funds -- in its $454 million budget that would not directly impact the public.

That prudent course wouldn't serve the board in its fight with the executive, however. It wants to provoke voters so they will complain to elected officials.

Associate Superintendent Ronald Beckett's nonsensical comment that teams and clubs can meet after school "before the building gets too cold," suggests he's unaware that volunteers who run these programs might have jobs or other obligations during the afternoon.

The public deserves straight answers as to why school officials cannot find money in this fiscal year's education budget to pay for programs and services that it accommodated last year with $14 million less.

The board must answer key questions: How much of this year's budget is needed to cover overspending from last year? What spending increases now require the board to eliminate vital programs such as gifted and talented courses, and to impose after-school activities fees on students? Is money being shifted from instruction and textbooks to cover administrative costs?

Mr. Gary and, now, the board have shamed themselves. They are toying with the emotions of voters who will find others to run government, including the schools, if they can't carry out their sworn mission effectively and efficiently.

Pub Date: 8/05/98

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