Class size is unlikely to decrease

Proposed budget for schools recognizes enrollment decline

$172 million spending plan

Hyde suggests hiring three new teachers to cover growth

January 14, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Carroll Superintendent William H. Hyde's proposed $172 million budget for the next school year would do little to reduce class size, but it would staff a new school in Westminster, increase clerical workers and give elementary teachers planning time.

Hyde's spending plan for the 1999-2000 school year, unveiled at yesterday's school board meeting, is based on the fact that Carroll's student population seems to be leveling. After several years of a student growth rate between 2 percent and 3 percent, county officials are projecting an addition of 325 pupils next year, a 1.3 percent increase.

Also, the student population of 26,119 this year is 200 fewer than school officials had estimated.

"That affected what we [requested] in terms of positions to address growth," said Hyde, unveiling his first budget as superintendent. "Our read is that growth is still a factor, but the rate appears to be slowing."

The superintendent's operating budget would be 8 percent above this year's budget of $159 million.

"Once again it's a very conservative budget," said Ralph Blevins, president of the Carroll County Education Association, the teachers union. "There's nothing there for improvement in terms of reducing class size and getting more technology in schools. All it does is maintain."

In Howard County, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey is seeking a 7.4 percent increase in school spending next year. The nearly $293 million budget, unveiled yesterday, calls for a host of program improvements addressing a range of topics including reading, alternative education, and the achievement gap between students of different races and economic backgrounds.

Carroll's proposed spending plan includes three new teaching positions -- at a cost of $116,751 -- to address growth across the system.

Because Carroll schools had 200 fewer students than projected this year, county officials had to subtract from next year's proposed budget the eight teachers that would have been hired for those students, said Vernon F. Smith, assistant superintendent of administration. Also, school officials subtracted another two teaching positions to account for a projected decrease of 63 pupils at the elementary level for the first time in years.

`Correction factor'

"There is a correction factor," said Walter Brilhart, county schools budget supervisor. "We subtract the teachers in the system now, and the following year we make the adjustment."

Board member Ann M. Ballard voiced concern that while elementary class sizes have dropped this year, class sizes in middle and high schools continue to increase. Projections for next year envision an increase of 226 middle school pupils and 161 high school students. "We're still not where we should be because we've been so behind for years," Ballard said. "I was hoping there would be more teachers to address class size."

The requested county contribution to the proposed school operating budget is $95.7 million, a $7.7 million increase over this school year. The estimated state and federal portions of the proposed budget are $71 million and $3.6 million, respectively.

School officials said that as Carroll's wealth increases, the state's share of the local education budget declines. As proposed, the county would be responsible for 55.6 percent of the budget.

The planned opening of Cranberry Station Elementary in August accounts for $946,572 of the proposed spending plan. That amount covers 13 teaching and other positions, maintenance costs, materials and supplies, and two bus runs.

Hyde is also asking for $57,512 for core staff at the new Hampstead middle school, scheduled to open in September 2000.

Seventeen additional clerical positions are in the budget, at a cost of $411,622, to provide assistance to teachers across the system. Smith said that this staffing area has been neglected for the past several years, but teachers need more help completing required paperwork and administrative tasks.

Elementary planning time, which had been addressed in the school calendar in recent years, became an issue in the development of the budget. The calendar included six late-start days to give elementary teachers planning time, but the school board decided to remove the built-in planning time after several parents complained about the late openings.

The proposed budget includes seven teacher positions to restore part of the elementary planning time. The $272,419 won't be used to hire seven new teachers. Instead, elementary school principals could use the money to hire part-time employees to relieve classroom teachers, said Dorothy D. Mangle, assistant superintendent of instruction.

Blevins said elementary teachers won't be able to do their jobs effectively without the planning time.

Teachers feel overworked

"We want a true commitment from the board members to put it in there, no matter how tight the budget constraints are," Blevins said. "Elementary teachers already feel overworked, and quite frankly they feel abandoned by the Board of Education."

Had the money not been included for elementary planning time, school officials said, it would have gone toward reducing class size.

"That's always been our priority for positions," Mangle said.

The school board will review the proposed budget and take public comment at three open hearings.

The hearings will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 21 at Elmer Wolfe Elementary School; 7 p.m. Feb. 8 at Linton Springs Elementary School; and at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at Westminster High School. The board is expected to adopt the budget after the final hearing.

Pub Date: 1/14/99

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