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School Board wishing for more money

November 08, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Money tops the Washington County Board of Education's wish list for the upcoming General Assembly session.

When School Board members met Monday with six members of the Washington County delegation they talked about school safety, charter schools and incentives for teachers, but dollars dominated the two-hour discussion.

"If this is good times ... I don't know what we're going to do when it gets tough," said Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr.

"Our basic concern is money," said board member Doris J. Nipps. "Our basic point is, money from the state is in such restricted accounts that we can't use it for what we need."

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The School Board can't get the state construction funds it needs because the County Commissioners won't put up enough matching money, she said. Renovation projects are delayed as a result.

Lawmakers said they can't help with that.

"The state has put the money in and made the formula better. You just have to convince the commissioners," said Del. Robert McKee, R-Washington.

Bartlett said the School Board's share of county budgets is shrinking and asked the legislators to help persuade the commissioners to contribute more.

School Board President Edwin Hayes asked the delegation to keep trying to solve the county's water and sewer debt problem, which he blamed for shortchanging education.

"Frankly, we need some relief," he said.

The board asked the legislators to make sure a "bridge funding" bill is fair to the county. Introduced last year, House Bill 34 proposed giving operating grants to every school board while the state fixes its school funding formula.

The bill did not pass, but McKee said he expects it to be introduced again this year.

Anticipating new bills, Nipps said the School Board believes charter schools should be locally controlled with open enrollment and legislation could allow them to qualify for federal aid.

On the safety issue, the board opposed structural remedies, preferring funding for counselors or character education.

"We don't believe making our schools armed camps is the way to prevent instances like Columbine," said Nipps.

She said the county has different needs than urban districts. An open administration and positive parenting are the answers, Nipps said.

The board also asked for financial incentives to help it hold on to teachers and attract more. Human Resources Director Phil Ray said the annual pool of teacher applicants has shrunk from 1,800 to 935 in three years.

With other areas nearby offering higher salaries, the county has a hard time attracting good teachers. Nipps asked for help from the state. "This is going to be a major problem," she said.

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