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The Tentacle


April 5, 2007

Do you ever wonder...

John W. Ashbury

Sitting around this time of year, with some time on my hands, my wondering gets cranked up. Budget time always seems to clobber my intellect, small though it be.

Do you ever wonder.. how it is that our Frederick County Board of Education and its staff comes up with information to seemingly justify its budget requests, particularly when asking for more money from the county commissioners?

Few disagree with statements that's schools are overcrowded and others need millions in repair and/or renovations. But, do you know where to look to get detailed information to verify the "facts" thrown at you by Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS)?

When was the last time you heard any members of the Board of Education, or a FCPS staff member, actually admit something is wrong or they made a mistake? Every press release, even those posted on it "Find Out First" email tree, is pabulum. Even negative issues are addressed in such a fashion to convince the reader that everything is coming up roses.

Do you ever wonder... how it is that more than 65 percent of our students in middle and high schools are so academically gifted that they make the honor roll every grading period. Check out the lists printed in the Frederick News-Post.

It would seem that either our curriculum is in need of repair; or perhaps our teachers are "giving" grades that aren't justified; or maybe, just maybe, our children are brighter that those of all the students in all the public middle and high schools in the state.

All of this derives from that political and socially correct philosophy that we must be sure that everyone feels good about themselves. We do all we can to create a congenial feeling among the students, forgetting that diversity is the hallmark of our society. Someone has to feel bad about themselves. How else will we know that we really are happy?

Do you ever wonder... about the education budget. It is almost incomprehensible. When asked some years ago for a copy of the line-item budget for the coming fiscal year, the superintendent said that such a document didn't exist, that each school submits its own budget.

It seems, in this corner, that somewhere along the line someone has to put all the requests into a single document and add up each line for each and every school. But, no, according to that former superintendent, that isn't done anymore.

Wonder if the commissioners asked for such a document, would it miraculously appear?

Do you ever wonder...how the elected members of our Board of Education come up with a budget that exceeds the total expenditures of the county commissioners for services the county must provided?

Officially, there are 40,315 students in our county schools this year. The total operating budget for this fiscal year is $411+ million. That works out to $10,200 for each and every public school student.

The Board of Education has submitted a budget request for next year, unlikely to be approved as written, that totals an astounding $466+ million. Included is a request that the commissioners provide nearly $27 million more next year than they did this year. The county increased its contribution to FCPS by $16.4 million from Fiscal Year 2006 to Fiscal Year 2007, the current year.

Doing the math demonstrates that the expected 950 student increase this fall will cost taxpayers $28,355 each. Of course, all the money won't go to educate just those students. If you add 950 to this year's enrollment and divide that into the total budget request for FCPS, next year's per pupil expenditure will rise to $11,300. That's an $1,100 increase per student.

Add in to this discussion the fact that the total Frederick County Government staff recommended budget for next year is only $427.8 million - $39 million less than the FCPS recommended 2008 budget. The commissioners' staff is suggesting an increase contribution to FCPS of $13.6 million - or 6.6 percent above what it provided this year.

Does this information make you wonder about the people running our school system? Do they have their heads screwed on correctly, or is their mind-set determined by some Kool-Aid they drink immediately after being elected? Do they really think that the taxpayers' pocket is a bottomless pit filled with cash?

Do you ever wonder...how Harford County can educate approximately the same number of students, in more school building, in a county just a little smaller than Frederick, for millions less that FCPS does?

It's true!

Harford's Board of Education is asking for a total contribution from the county of $210.3 million for next year. County Executive Jim Craig is offering to fund half of the increase of $26 million being sought. Like here, education officials, including the teachers' union, are up in arms.

And Harford County is presently witnessing a decline in student enrollment. State law provides, however, that even with a drop in the number of students, the county must fund its education system at least at the same level as last year.

Funny how it is that Frederick County's recommended budget also cuts in half the new money request from FCPS.

Finally Do you ever wonder...why we go through this exercise each and ever year and the result is always the same. The public is deluged with vapid arguments from all sides about the needs of our "children" and what we have to do for them to give them a "proper" education.

I wonder why we haven't been left in a bloody heap after being beat over the head for so many years with that bromide.



Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
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