Restore help for students

Arundel: Owens' proposed reductions for school professional positions could be devastating.

May 16, 2000

THE Millersville mother was "astounded" that Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens was ready to spend county funds on a swimming pool feasibility study but was cutting money for school psychologists, guidance counselors and special-education teachers.

Her son had just finished telling County Council members how much these professionals had helped him, an autistic Southgate Elementary pupil, come so far.

The council should listen.

Swimming pools certainly add to the quality of life. But the Millersville mom, other mothers, a father and even a brother told the council at a budget hearing that the county has lots of children who can't make it with fewer services. These students have myriad problems that trained professionals are helping them overcome.

The county must give special-needs students adequate resources to help them succeed in the classroom and in life. That won't happen as things stand.

The school board asked for 12.2 guidance counselor FTEs, but Ms. Owens' budget proposal provides only 1.5 full-time equivalents. The board asked for six psychologist positions, but Ms. Owens recommends one half-time slot. The board wanted 58 special-education teachers but would get only 12.5.

Some budget requests are outlandish. Others are unaffordable, such as salary increases for principals and assistant principals. But many of Ms. Owens' cuts could be devastating. Dysfunctional students have become literate because education professionals have been there for them. When schools are forced to share these employees, help might not be around when needed most.

The council can restore these positions; county lawmakers can add money for education budget items as long as they find savings elsewhere in the county executive's spending plan.

Before signing off on Ms. Owens' cuts, the council should seek out fat elsewhere and spare as many of these critical positions as possible.

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