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Letter from the editor –When is education funding enough?


Prince Frederick, MD - Without getting into spreadsheets and pay scales, it seems no matter which county you call home, the money spent on public education is never enough. Buildings and their maintenance cost money. The latest in education technology has a hefty price tag. Of course, there are the employees. Human resources is the most important—and costliest—component of them all. Top administrators, principals and vice principals, guidance counselors, teachers and those who play vital supporting roles to the function of the system—custodians, bus drivers, teachers’ aides—all have pressure-filled jobs and they need to be adequately compensated and provided with great benefits.

Often it is the word “adequately” that sparks the debates and disagreements in the small and large meeting rooms during the process leading to the adoption of a budget for the next fiscal year. It’s tough to determine what is adequate. Instead let’s offer a few realities.

For one, our capitalist society will never, ever be able to pay a good teacher what he or she is truly worth. The same is true with law enforcement and many other local government workers. Public education is funded by taxpayers and shaking them down for more money will ultimately prove counter-productive.

Also, no one should think that just because a community’s average household income is high means that the community as a whole is wealthy. In at least two Southern Maryland counties—Calvert and Charles—a majority of working residents go out-of-county for their jobs. They are already obligated to pay property taxes—assuming they own real property—and local income tax. They are under no other obligation to spread that earned wealth around the community in which they live. Also using the average household income stat as a justification for raises for public educators and other public servants isn’t really fair to those who are below average in their earnings. Furthermore, educators who work in the county where they own a home are not going to benefit from a property tax increase. The educator’s raise will go to pay for the tax increase.

While it’s sad to see experienced educators leave one school system because he or she can earn more money somewhere else, it’s not necessarily bad news for the students. Many teachers with little or no experience have blossomed into great educators when given the chance. They have shaped young minds, too.

Benefits are nothing to sneeze at and school systems in Southern Maryland provide top notch healthcare insurance to their employees. The community has many people who are paying for adequate coverage right out of their own pockets. Retirement benefits are also good for local educators, certainly better than some in the private sector have.

Not all of the budget decision makers or those who must contribute to the budget had a chance to participate in what was previously negotiated. Rage is misdirected when they are accused of reneging on a promise.

It has been proven for years in many locations that a high-paid workforce does not a great education system make. It is the combined effort of professional educators, students who are eager to learn, parents who are involved and a community—especially a business community—that is supportive that makes a good public education system better. It’s hard to put a price on that.

The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of TheBayNet.com’s management.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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