School Board seeks support from delegation

November 13, 2006

Editor's note: On the second Monday of each month, Washington County Board of Education members and school staff will use this space to write about school system issues. This month, the School Board is sending an open letter to the Washington County Delegation and Washington County community.

To help achieve our vision for Washington County Public Schools, the Board of Education is asking that our state delegation support the board's legislative priorities, as summarized below:

· Adequate state funding for school construction

We strongly support increased state funding to address the nearly $4 billion in facility needs across the state. The need is particularly important in Washington County, which has been designated as a "super growth" county. Projections indicate our public school enrollment will increase by at least 2 percent per year for the next 10 years. Furthermore, our aging schools have a backlog of $80 million in maintenance needs. Unless adequate funding is forthcoming, overcrowded classrooms, overreliance on portable classrooms and increasingly deteriorating school facilities will become the norm.


· Full funding for the Bridge to Excellence Act

We commend and appreciate the recent support for continued funding of the Bridge to Excellence Act, which provides Maryland's school systems with needed resources that help sustain continuous improvement in academic achievement. In Washington County, this funding has provided the capacity to reach the goal of meeting each child's academic needs. We are currently one of six school systems in the state where all schools have met adequate yearly progress. We urge continued full funding of the Bridge to Excellence Act.

· Teacher recruitment and retention

We have always known what research has proven: That a competent, highly qualified teacher is a major factor in determining student achievement. Additionally, the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires school systems to staff classrooms with highly qualified teachers. Recruiting and retaining these teachers has been a challenge due to the more attractive inducements that are offered by surrounding counties and states. Competition for highly qualified teachers remains intense, particularly in the areas of science, math and special education. We propose legislation to help address these challenges.

· Charter school act clarifications

An amendment to the Public Charter School Act of 2003 is needed. We urge the adoption of a statutory definition of the amount of the commensurate charter school funding, or base amount, a local school system must allocate to a charter school.

· Unfunded mandates

We strongly object to legislation that creates unfunded mandates; therefore, we propose a bill mandating funding for all mandates and requirements. Examples of recent unfunded mandates include the required expansions of full-day kindergarten and prekindergarten programming; and the requirement to provide defibrillators at high schools without any funding for the equipment or training.

· Reform of the Maintenance of Effort law

The current maintenance of effort formula requires that the local funding authority continue the same appropriation per pupil in the subsequent year that they are providing in the current year. There is no provision to require any increase for additional programs, for salary increases, for normal inflation or for new regulatory mandates.

· School safety and security

In light of recent violence in schools nationwide, parents, educators and other citizens have been seeking ways of securing schools from dangerous intrusions. Funding earmarked for upgrading safety measures and legislation for strengthening school trespass laws are needed.

Thank you for considering our legislative priorities in preparation for the upcoming session. We stand ready to work with the delegation and our citizens because we believe that our combined efforts can help to fulfill our vision of a world-class school system in Washington County.

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