Cumberland Times-News

Columns

June 21, 2014

Outsourced

State funds study to see if schools are underfunded

— The Maryland Board of Public Works recently voted to pay a Colorado company $1 million to study whether our state’s public schools receive adequate funding.

This is ironic by most people’s standards in at least two respects:

1. $1 million of Maryland taxpayers’ money is going to a project aimed at figuring out whether our schools get enough taxpayers’ money. 2. The job isn’t even going to a Maryland company; it’s being outsourced.

Comptroller Peter Franchot, who frequently speaks up when he sees our money being used unwisely, opposed the board’s decision.

He said, “I have visited over 200 schools … I can tell you right now we have a lot of unmet needs in our public schools. I can think of several better things to do with a million dollars than hand it over to an out-of-state consulting firm.”

Franchot said he didn’t oppose the study, but wanted to know why it wasn’t kept in-state. He asked a representative of the state Department of Education and was told the staff didn’t have the “technical skills” to analyze its results.

The study is necessary, seeing that most public school systems — if not all of them — agree they are underfunded. This is especially true in Allegany and Garrett counties, where state funding for education has plummeted in recent years.

Our Allegany County commissioners and board of education have argued for decades as to whether the schools are getting too little money, or if they’re getting enough but spending too much. It’s a feud we expect to continue.

We hope the people who conduct the school funding study will concentrate on the people who will give them the most useful information: not the school board members or their administrative personnel, not the teachers’ unions or even the principals, but the teachers themselves.

The teachers are the ones in the trenches. They are in direct contact every day with our young people, who are the only reason we have schools in the first place. It’s not unheard of — and in some places may happen frequently —  for teachers to buy classroom supplies out of their own pockets because they have no other choice.

Teachers are likely to have the best idea of where money is needed and where money is being wasted. Ask them the right questions, and they’ll give good answers.

 

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