Cumberland Times-News

April 28, 2013

Commissioners should fund school board request

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— As we enter the time of the year when the Allegany County Commissioners consider their budget allocations for the coming year, we the undersigned ask that the Commissioners fully fund the Allegany County Board of Education’s budget request for the coming school year.

The request made by the board is very modest, seeks to provide a safe learning environment for our students and will ensure the continuation of vital programs and services.

It is true that the amount of state funding for the Board of Education has dropped due to the decline in student population and the formula the state uses to determine how much funding our county gets.

However, it is also true that as a percentage of its total budget, the county’s contribution to the board of education has continued to drop as well.

The school system has been forced to eliminate over 100 positions through attrition over the past five years detrimentally impacting class size. Numerous programs have already been reduced as has the purchase of classroom materials.

Additionally, as a result of the commissioners’ decision to fund the school system at the lowest level allowed by the law, the board of education was forced to take back a previously negotiated 1 percent raise from its staff.

There is a broad misconception that Allegany County public schools’ staff members have been receiving raises in pay.

The reality is that due to increases in the employee contribution to the state retirement system, ACPS staff is in fact taking home roughly 2 percent less than they were two years ago.

Furthermore, the amount of new workload has increased dramatically with the implementation of the Common Core, new teacher evaluations, Universal Designs for Learning, Math Gap lesson plans, a new assessment system and more new programs than can be listed here.

Staff is literally doing profoundly more with dramatically less.

The reductions in pay and reductions in staff mean that significantly less money is being spent in the local economy creating a situation that has a doubly negative impact.

It is also important to note that generally speaking, for every dollar spent on public education in a local economy, the return on that amount is between $1.20 to $1.50.

A quality public education system is also an important local indicator sought by companies looking to locate in an area. Investing in education is undoubtedly good for economic development.

Finally, the budget request proposed by the board is a bare minimum budget that our schools desperately need just to stay where they are.

We strongly encourage the commissioners to recognize the responsibility they have to fund our schools at a level that allows the system to keep its head above water.

We also encourage the public to let our commissioners know that quality public schools are important and that funding the board’s budget request is absolutely vital to ensuring that quality.

Allegany County Teachers Association

Board of directors

Debbie Pappas, ACTA president