February 04, 2007

Sacrifices needed to support schools

I was disappointed to hear that County Executive John R. Leopold does not support county schools Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell's $920 million proposed spending plan.

None of us wants to pay more taxes, but all who support this budget are willing to make sacrifices in order to bring our schools into the 21st century and to provide our children with a world-class education.

Of course, raising taxes is not the only way to fund fully this increase in the school budget.

I support Maxwell's budget plan both as a county teacher and as a mother of two children who attend Broadneck High School.

Since becoming a special education teacher at Arundel High School, I have only the greatest respect for county educators.

Arundel has a fantastic principal in Sharon Stratton, who courageously offers a vision for where we need to be to educate children for the modern workforce. I have great admiration also for Broadneck's principal, Lucinda Hudson.

The staff at Arundel, Broadneck and all of the other county schools with which I have interacted have impressed me beyond measure by their dedication to the profession and their propensity to go the extra mile for their students.

Nevertheless, as a second career teacher, I liken my experience to Back to the Future - only maybe a better name would be Forward to the Past.

I graduated from Severna Park High School in 1978. If anything has changed in terms of school environment and teacher/student resources since then, it hasn't much changed for the better.

Please support this budget to get us out of the dark ages. County school educators and students often work under very poor conditions.

County school environments, furniture and equipment are not consistently maintained and/or replaced. Limited funding for cleaning crews is severely impacting the schools' ability to maintain positive, clean and safe environments. Teachers must purchase most of their own supplies. And the majority of teachers teach more kids than ever before.

Maryland is the third-wealthiest state in the nation, and Anne Arundel County is the fifth-richest county in the state. Yet our county has the dubious distinction of being ranked 11th in the state and eighth among nine surrounding counties in per-pupil spending and teacher salaries.

To think that this has not had a negative impact on our schools and the quality of education we offer to our students is naive. I am grateful, however, for the teacher salary increases that hopefully will move Anne Arundel County to fourth or fifth in the ranking.

Maxwell seems to understand the immediate need to make difficult decisions regarding the county schools' need for a budget increase and has articulated this in many public forums.

If we don't stop cutting corners and start taking steps to advance our schools now, we'll only have an even bigger, costlier mess on our hands.

Katharine M. Collins Annapolis

Money won't cure schools' problems

Mr. Maxwell's proposal to increase the Anne Arundel County piggyback tax to fund his requested education budget is ludicrous.

The citizens of this county have been throwing money into the county school system for years through increased taxation with mostly negative results. It should be obvious by this time that money is not the panacea for all the schools' woes.

Most of the real solutions rest with the students themselves, who must accept the responsibilities associated with achieving a good education, and with their parents, who must accept the responsibilities associated with helping their children to achieve that end.

If additional funding is required to increase the teacher base and teacher salaries so that the county can attract teachers with higher skill levels, then why not start charging tuition to attend public schools?

There are many parents who are within certain income levels who can well afford to pay a tuition fee for their children. Those families below certain income levels could be exempted from paying tuition or could pay a nominal amount, if necessary.

This puts the burden of paying to educate the children of the county on those who use the public education system and removes that burden from those parents who choose to use the private school system.

Parents who have to pay for their child's education may be more motivated to participate in that education.

Dominic Aiello Pasadena

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