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Why it's important to vote in Tuesday's Maryland primary

March 01, 2004

Tomorrow Maryland voters go to the polls in an election that will allow the state's citizens to register their preferences for president and the 6th District congressional races.

But just as important, Washington County voters will choose among 16 candidates for the local board of education.

The School Board spends more than 75 percent of all local tax dollars. How well the school system does its job has a direct effect on local prosperity, because today's jobs require more than common sense and a good work ethic.

And although it might not seem fair, new companies looking to locate here pay a great deal of attention to what percentage of the local population has four-year college degrees.

It's not just something that spruces up a county's rsum. The 2000 census showed that 14.6 percent of Washington County residents have a bachelor's or more advanced degree and that the county's median income was $40,617. In Frederick, the median income was $60,276.

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What accounted for the difference in income? Almost twice as many Frederick County residents have four-year degrees.

The next School Board will have another job - making sure the system meets the mandates of the federal "No Child Left Behind" law. Under the law, every student must make progress every year, or the system will face federal sanctions, though the amount of federal aid provided so far has been less than overwhelming.

Which bring us to the issue of money. In Maryland, boards of education propose budgets, but the county government is responsible for funding them.

And so those who seek School Board seats need to be diplomats as well as advocates. Trying to paint county officials as heartless only invites them to retaliate by claiming that the school system wastes money that could be used in the classroom.

That's not what Washington County needs. Instead, both elected bodies need to work together toward the common goal of producing the best possible outcomes for local students.

The Herald-Mail has quizzed the candidates on a variety of education issues and provided space for their answers. On Tuesday it will be up to the voters to decide.

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