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More teachers, better pension part of wish list

November 16, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY

karenh@herald-mail.com

Teacher recruitment, pension improvement and more funding for construction projects are on a list of priorities the Washington County Board of Education plans to present to legislators next week.

By consensus vote, the board agreed in a work session Tuesday afternoon to support the positions on teacher recruitment and retention, and public school construction adopted earlier by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.

The Washington County Board of Education will present its wish list of legislative priorities to Western Maryland's General Assembly delegation just in time for the holidays. The board will meet with the delegation Monday morning at Winter Street Elementary School.

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According to issue sheets available on its Web site, the state school boards association supports legislation to increase teachers' pension benefits and continued funding and programs such as loan forgiveness and scholarships to entice and retain teachers. The association calls for $400 million in state funding for school construction projects in fiscal year 2007, and it supports legislation to exempt school construction from prevailing wage requirements.

Board member Roxanne R. Ober suggested the board also lobby the delegation to make it possible for retired teachers to return to the systems where they last worked without penalty to their pension. She also said the delegation could push for accelerated or prioritized funding for high-growth school systems such as Washington County.

Board member Russell F. Williams said the school system should ask the state for the amount of money it needs for construction projects and not restrict its request to the amount of money officials believe the state can deliver. The school system should lobby for greater funding toward construction across the state, he said.

"I would think the best way to get more money is not to fight over a bigger piece of the pie, but to fight for a bigger pie," Williams said.

Williams was the only board member to express concerns with the state school board association's position against prevailing-wage requirements for school construction projects. He said the school system should promote high wages for all its families so people do not have to depend on government assistance to survive.

Chief Operating Officer G. William Blum told the board he doubted the state's most politically powerful areas, such as Baltimore and Prince George's County, would approve priority funding for high-growth school systems like Washington County. The areas with the most political clout aren't growing, he said.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said it never hurts to ask.

"If you don't know what you can get, you've got to go after what you can wish for," Morgan told the board.

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