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Board of Education outlines legislative priorities

October 23, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - New school construction and funding for school operations top the Washington County Board of Education's list of legislative priorities this year.

The board agreed by consensus vote last week that its priorities include teacher recruitment, pensions, security and technology for the county's public schools.

Board President W. Edward Forrest said he expects the board to present its wish list of legislative priorities to Western Maryland's General Assembly delegation next month.

The board's priorities include the following, Forrest said:

· School construction: The board would like to see the amount of money the state sets aside for school construction increased, and would like the amount given to Washington County to increase.

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"We are designated a super growth county and have such pressing needs for school construction money," he said. "We want (legislators) to fight for us and bring some additional revenue back to the county if possible."

· The Bridge to Excellence Act: Forrest said that fiscal year 2008 will be the last of the five-year phase of the so-called "Thornton funding." The act increased funding for public schools across the state.

"We continue to support (The Bridge to Excellence Act) and want (legislators') support for it in advocating the governor's budget," Forrest said.

· Pensions: Forrest said there was significant improvement in the pension program during the last legislative session. The pension system made last year's legislative priorities list for the Board of Education.

"The board is advocating for advancing that at every opportunity," he said. "We want to keep it strong. Keep it growing and improve it if possible. (Pensions) are an important part of why teachers choose to teach where they do."

· Security: Forrest said this request could be as simple as allocating additional funding for securing school buildings, or as broad as expanding trespassing laws.

"We have to do the best we can do," Forrest said. "(We have to try) sometimes to predict the unpredictable."

· Rehiring retired teachers: The board is asking for flexibility in the current legislation, which restricts retired teachers from being rehired by the county in which they taught. They have to go to another county or another state, Forrest said.

· Prekindergarten: The board would like per-pupil funding and additional funding to create and expand prekindergarten programs.

· Technology: The Technology Education graduation requirement was an unfunded mandate, Forrest said. The requirement was a radical change, and funds were needed for professional development for teachers and for hardware and software to support the program. The board is asking for funding to meet the criteria of the graduation requirement.

· Teacher recruitment and retention: Forrest said Maryland is not producing enough teachers for the state's public schools. He said the board supports legislation that would increase opportunities for students who have trouble financially and incentives to choose education as a career.

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