Maxwell still doesn’t get it

Anne Arundel County School Superintendent Kevin Maxwell still doesn’t understand that you can’t just spend your way to better schools:

Claiming he did everything possible to pare down school spending, Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell proposed another budget hike for county schools last night.

It’s an increase smaller than the one he proposed last year, which led to months of squabbling between county and school officials, and ended up not being fully funded.

“We have scrimped. We have saved,” Dr. Maxwell told the county Board of Education in his operating and capital budget presentation. “We have looked at every program and position – every single one – and made some painful decisions that will impact our students.”

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In a budget presentation punctuated with recognitions and applause for groups of students and schools staff, the superintendent asked for $99.9 million more in his operating budget than he received from the state and county last year. The fiscal 2008 budget was about an 8 percent increase from the previous year.

If this year’s spending plan is fully funded, it will bring the total schools operating budget to $968.8 million.

Yes, we have nearly Billion-Dollar Babies in our public schools according to Maxwell’s proposed budget, which is available online here and I’ll be reviewing that in the near future to see where Maxwell continues to insist on wasting money.

Two things make Maxwell’s yearly beg-a-thon disheartening to myself and many other Anne Arundel County residents.

First, Maxwell refuses to reconsider the course of actions before spending any money. Every year, Maxwell requests gigantic spending increases without either proving the demonstrable need for such increases, or whether or not the programs he wishes to continue funding are being effective. We get higher and higher spending requests every year without any consideration as to if what our schools are doing is actually working to educate our students better. I would also be willing to bet that the high administrative overhead also remains in this year’s budget as well, much as it did last year’s.

Second, this once again reinforces the need for an elected School Board in Anne Arundel County. John Leopold likes to complain about the Superintendent and this Board’s lack of fiscal reality, yet he continues to wish that the population has no input on the School Board selection process. Leopold’s beloved School Board appointment plan that he helped shepherd through the General Assembly is going to make an existing problem worse, as the majority of new members appointed by Governor O’Malley will share O’Malley’s “politics first, unions second, education last” philosophy of school board administration. And we already have that problem when you consider some of the knuckleheaded things Eugene Peterson says:

Board member Eugene Peterson called the superintendent’s plan “bare-bones.”

“We must honor our contracts,” he said. “If we don’t, we’ll lose all credibility and our competitive edge, and we can’t do that. Good education costs money.”

Our school system selection process lost credibility when the public had it’s right to participate taken away by a Governor and a County Executive who want to remove parents and taxpayers from having influence on who sits on our board. But furthermore, having credibility and a competitive edge when it comes to public schools has nothing to do with money and everything to do with curriculum and methods. If this oft-repeated adage about buying our way to better schools were true, why do politicians and muckity-mucks in the District of Columbia ( tops in per pupil spending) always send their kids to private schools?

These issues regarding spending, spending priorities, curriculum issues, and teaching methods all come back down to who selects the school board. With the current O’Malley/Leopold system in place, we know that future members of the School Board will place educational achievement at the lowest level of priority, choosing to protect the teacher’s union and protecting liberal teaching methods and political causes first and foremost. Because O’Malley and Leopold have insisted that parents, teachers, and taxpayers should not have the right to vote for a School Board of their own choosing, this kind of nonsense will continue to be all to common in the future.


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