Cumberland Times-News

June 17, 2013

We have lots to show for our education dollars

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— I would like to take this opportunity to respond to Judith Weller’s latest anti-education diatribe, “The money they already have isn’t being spent wisely,” (June 3).

Ms. Weller goes out of her way to vilify our local school system on a regular basis, yet provides no documentation supporting her argument that our schools waste money on “unnecessary programs” and that the results in our system do not “justify the money spent.”

Judith Weller’s claim that we have nothing to show for our public school dollars is an argument based on little more than her virulent dislike of public education.

Our schools perform well, as is evidenced in the annual data collected and made available to the public via www.mdreportcard.org.

Our graduation rate is above the state average (89.8 percent vs. 83.5 percent), our schools perform well in standardized tests, in spite of our high poverty rates, with our students performing above the state average in math (85.6 percent vs. 82 percent) and science (74.5 percent vs. 69.6 percent). Our reading scores are right at the state average (85.2 percent).

Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. But are our schools failing? Absolutely not.

Ms. Weller also attacks former Speaker of the House of Delegates Casper Taylor for a letter he wrote in support of a balanced approach to local school funding that appeared in the Times- News May 29.

The fact that Mr. Taylor has said little about local issues since his return to the private sector until this one is indicative of the important role school funding plays in the health of our community. His letter, and most especially its points about the county’s approach to the use of tax dollars, is noteworthy.

Fiscal conservatism is to be applauded, but ignoring needs in our community while the county sits on a reserve fund of nearly $18 million — over 20 percent of our county’s general fund budget — is irresponsible.

Taxes are collected in order to provide services and infrastructure maintenance not typically provided by the private sector.

A healthy reserve fund is key to maintaining a community’s bond rating and being prepared for hard fiscal times or emergencies. A 10 percent reserve fund is adequate; 15 percent would be considered excellent.

Twenty percent would be great if our roads were in perfect condition, our libraries fully funded, and our school system not reeling from $10.5 million in cuts over the past four years.

What that 20 percent reserve funding tells me is that the commissioners are more interested in hoarding tax dollars than addressing community needs.

The commissioners are providing 9 percent pay increases to numerous county employees over the next three years.

The pay increases are surely well deserved, but the fact that such pay increases can take place without tapping that $18 million in reserves supports Mr. Taylor’s assertion that the commissioners’ refusal to fund our school system is more about politics than the county’s finances.

In fact, it is stark evidence of the fact that, as Mr. Taylor stated, the commissioners are willing to “damage the future of our children for political reasons.”

Kimi-Scott McGreevy

Cumberland