January 14, 2007

ISSUE: -- Saying the school system can be one of the country's best and that the county can afford to pay for it, Anne Arundel Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell has proposed a $920 million operating budget for the next fiscal year.

The operating budget, which he outlined to the school board Jan. 3, calls for a $131 million increase, or 17 percent, to expand special education services, prekindergarten and all-day kindergarten programs; bolster security; update technology; and begin the International Baccalaureate program at Meade High School and precursor programs at three middle schools. It also funds a previously negotiated 6 percent pay increase for teachers.

The call for excellence might put into focus the level of education the county, constrained by a tax cap, is willing to spend in a belt-tightening year, given other pressing funding demands.

The county faces several expenses that will total in the billions of dollars: road upgrades and an expansion of mass transit around Fort Meade; the negotiation of 10 union contracts; growing commitments for retirees' health care; and school construction and renovations. The new county executive, John R. Leopold, vowed in the fall campaign that he would not raise taxes.

Given the financial challenges facing the county, can Anne Arundel afford a 17 percent increase in schools funding? How should it be paid for?

Commitment to future needed

At some point in the near future, the citizens and leadership of Anne Arundel County must commit to the future of its children.

Dr. Maxwell's budget must be fully funded in order to prevent the county from falling further behind the surrounding districts.

How can we be content in knowing that the fifth-wealthiest county in Maryland is only willing to be the 11th highest in per-pupil spending?

Can Anne Arundel County afford a 17 percent increase in schools funding? Not only can it, it must.

County Executive John R. Leopold and the County Council have the opportunity to do what is right for the students of Anne Arundel County. Let's hope they have the will and fortitude.

Christopher D. WooleyHand

The writer is principal of Hillsmere Elementary School in Annapolis.

Excellence requires financial support

I support the increased budget proposed by Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell. If we want high-performing schools, we must be willing to provide the financial support that is necessary to get schools moving toward excellence. It is just that simple.

Our county is surrounded by districts that have mobile computer labs in every school, schools that issue laptops and presenters to all classroom teachers, and higher pay for teachers.

If we want to continue to attract a high caliber of citizens to this county, then there is no question that the proposed budget should be accepted.

Charis Jones Annapolis

The writer is a teacher at Annapolis Middle School.

Stop complaining, increase budget

Anne Arundel County could afford the increase in the budget, but the esteemed citizens who work hard for the money that funds the budget demonstrate repeatedly that personal wealth is more important than the system that provided them with the ability to live the way they do.

This question about affording an increase in school funding happens every year. Funding of schools should never be an issue when the future of the county, state and country relies on the school system's ability to educate and prepare competent citizens that contribute to society.

We complain about the number of youth getting in more trouble, yet we cut funding for after-school activities.

Employers bemoan the number of ill-prepared high school graduates entering the "real world" and direct their frustration to the teachers that educate these new faces in society. They curse the system that cannot afford to prepare them, never thinking about the myriad of higher-paying professions most teachers turn down because they understand that without an education we will never progress.

Meanwhile, neighborhoods are popping up in every open piece of land with million-dollar homes and status-symbol cars in their garages.

Have we forgotten everything that we learned in school? I am a teacher. I am a taxpayer. I am responsible for what happens in years to come, yet I am handcuffed by lack of funds because people that make more than teachers are unwilling to part with some of their money for the betterment of all involved.

If we, as a county, would just stop complaining about how a tax increase takes away another luxury item from our exorbitant lifestyles and realize the greater good accomplished by teachers, maybe this would not be an issue every year.

Rich Zwolinski Millersville

Needs justify increased taxes

As an educator in the Anne Arundel County Public School system, I congratulate Dr. Maxwell for requesting the budget increase.

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