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School Board seeks boost in Annapolis

February 12, 2007|by RUTH ANNE CALLAHAM

Editor's note: Once a month, Washington County Board of Education members and school staff will use this space to write about school system issues. This month's column is written by Ruth Anne Callaham.

A booster is a supporter, shot in the arm, cheerleader or advocate for a worthwhile endeavor. Athletic teams have them, bands have them and now we are asking you to be a booster in Annapolis for our schools.

Each and every day, more than 21,000 Washington County schoolchildren gather at schools all over the county to learn, play and grow. Our community has made a significant investment of time and tax dollars to ensure that the children have an opportunity to achieve their goals.

The next step is to work hard to maximize that investment. The Board of Education has asked our state delegation to aggressively pursue legislation to help Washington County Public Schools meet the needs of the children. The top legislative priorities identified for the 2007 session of the General Assembly are:

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Adequate funding for school construction. Washington County is such a desirable place to live and work that projections indicate public school enrollment will increase by at least 2 percent per year for the next 10 years. Not only do we need new school seats, but we also must meet the requirements of aging facilities that will cost more than $80 million.

Full funding for Bridge to Excellence. Bridge to Excellence funding has provided resources needed to sustain a high level of academic improvement by our children. Continuance of the funding at the highest level is critical to ensure our teachers, administrators and support staff have the tools they need to help each child meet his or her academic goals.

Teacher recruitment and retention. Washington County Public Schools employs more than 1,500 very talented teachers. The No Child Left Behind Act and the future of our children mandates that each and every teacher be highly qualified. Recruiting and retaining good teachers is a highly competitive process. Legislation is needed to position our compensation packages on par with neighboring states.

End unfunded legislative mandates. Lawmakers must understand the negative impact of imposing educational mandates without funds. Technology education is a good graduation requirement but becomes a budget buster without the accompanying funds needed for specialized equipment.

Reform the Maintenance of Effort Law. State law requires county governments to maintain the per-student level of funding established in the current year into subsequent years. However, the law does not provide for normal inflation, economic surges such as high energy prices or new regulatory mandates.

Please join us in advocating for our children's future. Your letters, phone calls, e-mails and personal meetings to engage our elected officials in dialogue about the issues are very important to the achievement of our children.

A public school booster/advocacy tool kit can be found on the WCPS web site, www.wcboe.k12.md.us. You also may call any of the elected Board of Education members for more information. Thank you in advance for your caring and enthusiastic support.

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