Schools budget not enough, board is told

Teachers, students call for increases in $325.1 million plan

Hickey's proposal

Requests range from technology to salaries to band uniforms

February 04, 2000|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

At $325.1 million, the proposed budget for Howard County schools is significantly more than last year's funding. Yet, the overwhelming majority of speakers at last night's public hearing on school funding asked the school board for more.

The amount proposed to run county schools in the 2000-2001 school year is $25.4 million more than last year.

Members of the county's math advisory committee requested more money for technology and computer maintenance, more competitive salaries for math teachers and graphing calculators for all high-level math students.

The science advisory committee asked the board to provide instructional lab assistants in the middle schools to help set up experiments. Such assistants would also monitor high-risk activities and be responsible for tracking, repairing and cleaning equipment, the committee said.

Student leaders detailed why the district should hire a full-time student activities adviser.

Social studies teachers lamented their large class sizes, particularly in high school advanced government classes. And a parent of student band members requested an annual expenditure of $60,000 to replace uniforms in all county high schools every 10 years.

On it went -- expand reading programs, enhance reading instruction for children with learning disabilities, hire full-time guidance counselors and year-round assistant principals at all schools.

And that was just in the first hour.

Hickey has requested an 8.4 percent increase in the proposed operating budget to continue initiatives begun this year. He seeks to accommodate growth and respond to the community's recent appeals for more equity in school resources, facilities, technology and staffing.

The superintendent's proposal does not include salary increases for employees, which are being negotiated through collective bargaining expected to end this spring.

Several speakers pleaded for more money for teachers, who rank 10th in the state for starting salaries for first-year teachers with bachelor's degrees.

Others spoke about the need for reduced high school class sizes.

Jennifer Lam, a junior at Mount Hebron High School, said students feel more comfortable asking questions in smaller classes and build better relationships with teachers.

Many teachers, including Marcy Leonard, a social studies teacher at Wilde Lake High School, said that smaller classes are imperative if teachers are expected to adequately prepare students for rigorous state and county-wide high school assessments.

"Unfortunately, the students who need that assistance are the ones least likely to make that after-school appointment," Leonard said.

The school board will hold three work sessions to discuss the proposed budget and the community's requests before approving a final version of the budget Feb. 22. That version goes to the county council for approval.

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