Superintendent Terry Alban has kicked off the budget season for Frederick County Public Schools with a 2021 operating budget that is — even more than usual — a rough first draft that will be evolving until the deadline for approval in the spring.

Alban is requesting a significant boost in funding, a 7.3 percent increase from the fiscal 2020 operating budget, to $683 million.

As the Maryland General Assembly convenes, however, the biggest item of business on its agenda is the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, more commonly known as the Kirwan Commission. And where that debate will take our state and our county, no one knows.

The commission has recommended enormous increases in funding for education, both on the part of the state government and local governments. How much of that the Legislature will approve, how much money the state might provide, and how much might be required of the counties will be argued about during the 90-day session, probably right up until the final day in April.

The Board of Education has already been warned by staff that the school system expects at least a $4.2 million cost to support new mandates if all of the commission’s recommendations win approval. We believe that figure might be too low.

The commission recommended increasing total funding by $4 billion more per year, with $2.8 billion from the state and requiring local school systems to come up with the remaining $1.2 billion. And yes, that would be every year, on top of the current spending.

The superintendent’s budget would already align with some changes that most people expect to see from the Legislature, especially increasing teacher pay and creating more accountability programs to make sure the money goes where it is supposed to go.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the commission’s major recommendations are:

  • Expanding prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds, as well as 3-year-olds from poor families.
  • Increasing the standards to become a teacher and raising teacher salaries.
  • Revamping high schools to offer students training for well-paying jobs right after graduation.
  • Providing more support to special education students and schools with concentrations of poor families.

Alban did address the salary issue and is requesting more staff in the central office to respond to new accountability requirements. But some of her other priorities are not among the commission recommendations. She highlighted reducing class size, creating a replacement cycle for technology and increasing staff in the schools to address increasing enrollment.

Reducing class size is popular both with parents and teachers, and the school board members are in favor of it as well. But it does cost a lot of money. Alban’s draft includes $3.6 million to reduce class size in kindergarten through eighth grade, but the document does not specify by how many students.

The research on the benefit of cutting class size is mixed. According to education experts, the best study was conducted by the state of Tennessee in the late 1980s, and the results showed that students in classes averaging 15 pupils did better than those in classes averaging 22. That is a huge reduction, and most school systems cannot afford to do that much.

A 2015 study by the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California concluded:

“We can say with confidence that smaller class sizes improve grades for younger learners. But the answers to deeper questions are less clear. …

“The magnitude of the impact must be weighed against the impact of other reforms. For example, would paying higher salaries to retain a high-quality teacher workforce be money better spent?”

That seems to be the direction the Kirwan study wants school systems to go.

If Frederick County is going to be called on to provide a lot more funding for our schools, we have to make certain that every dollar is spent wisely, and with the greatest impact.

This is not to say that Alban’s budget is too large. It is a continuing embarrassment that our county ranks at the bottom of per-pupil spending in the state. The mandates of the Kirwan Commission might change that, but the school board must keep a close eye on its pennies.

(23) comments

HappySeller2014

We already going off the the rails. So, no kids means no taxation for public schools?

Public education is a common good. The more educated a society, the better its citizens.

I have probably only driven on about 20% of all the surfaced roads in Frederick County. Should my local tax bill be lessened 80% to cover this fact? Nope.

Same goes with streetlights. And stop signs. Hey, I only have one of dozens of fire departments near me. Should that, and the fact I have never called 911 to report a fire, be factored into my local tax bill?

Get real. Public education is a public good. You folks with no kids probably travel more on our county roads, get treated at public health clinics for VD more often, and visit our local parks, historical sites, and publicly-financed cultural centers more frequently and I do not complain about my share of these taxes.

Society's children gonna pay your Social Security one day, if not already. It is a pay as you go system. Be careful what you complain about.

gabrielshorn2013

No happy, read it again. You have completely mischaracterized his statements. MD1756 is not saying that he shouldn't pay taxes to support schools, he has repeatedly stated that parents should not be getting tax breaks because they made the choice to have kids, and shift the tax burden onto the rest of society. The rest of your post is BS.

HappySeller2014

Really Gabby?

"I guess people don't like it when I point out that those of us with no children have been discriminated against by all levels of government that tax income and continue to be discriminated against and are forced to pay more for public education of children than parents are."

Yet again, I make sense and you revert to name calling and inaccuracies. My post makes excellent sense to those who have vast knowledge of public policy and its implications.

gabrielshorn2013

Sigh...Dude, learn to read, and not pull a single sentence out of context. MD1756 has always stated that it is unfair that people get tax breaks for having children, thus shifting the tax burden for those children onto those without children. His statement is fact. People with children should not be getting tax breaks for making a choice to have them. They should be paying the same rate as those without children. That's not a tax cut for him. It's a fair tax increase for those with kids. See the difference?

Also, grow some skin. I didn't call you a name. I said what you wrote was BS. That's the difference between you and something you wrote. As an "attorney", you do know how to differentiate between the two, don't you "counselor"?

smh...

HappySeller2014

Hey Gabby, question for you. Should teachers not be given a $250 deduction on their federal tax form (thus lowering their taxable base) for buying school materials out of their own pockets during any given school year? I guess your position would be no, the tax burden should remain with them and no deduction given, eh? It was their choice, after all, to help their schoolkids, right?

gabrielshorn2013

Talk about non sequiturs! How did you arrive at that? Of course teachers should be fully reimbursed for all job-related expenses. Keep trying...

MD1756

Why do you intentionally misrepresent my position? That is what one may call "going off the rails." Again please explain the logic that leads you to believe people who have chosen to have children should pay less taxes than those who chose not to have children? (note, nowhere in that question is any statement about where the income tax money should be spent so that shoots down your first question). You talk about pay as you go so why do parents pay less to educate their children than childless people? You still have yet to answer that simple question. Rather than an honest dialog you just continue to misrepresent my position. As Gary would say, piffle.

gabrielshorn2013

Hmmmm....what happened to md1756's post? It didn't violate any of the rules.

MD1756

I guess people don't like it when I point out that those of us with no children have been discriminated against by all levels of government that tax income and continue to be discriminated against and are forced to pay more for public education of children than parents are. The FNP shouldn't be deleting my comments because I try not to insult people or bait them etc. People may not like my opinions but I at least try to obey the rules unlike many on this site that consistently demean others and post false information.

MD1756

I should add to the FNP that I will not be silenced in my crusade fighting against the discrimination of people who have never had children (or at least human children). Tax policy is not the only area where those of us with no children have been discriminated against. Many work places (including the federal government) discriminate against us through their benefit policies, family leave policies, etc. I ask for no special favors because I have no children but I shouldn't be taxed more to educate children just because I don't have children.

public-redux

Wait, you don’t have children? You should have mentioned that before!!11!

MD1756

Public, I have mentioned it plenty of times just as I've mentioned that I'm not saying I should pay no taxes towards educating children (even though I believe the growing human population is a significant environmental issue that I shouldn't be forced to pay more for than the parents are). I am saying that parents should pay at least the same (in other words eliminate their income tax deductions/credits they receive because they chose to have children. I'm also not necessarily saying more money shouldn't go to schools (although I'd argue that the environmental issues we have that affect all of us are more critical than any education problems we have).

For anyone who believes childless people should pay more taxes for the children that others chose to have, please tell me why you think I should pay more than the parents in income taxes just because I have no children? People without cars are not required to pay more income taxes because they don't own cars (even though they still use the roads to get around). Those who do own cars pay fees and gas taxes to support the infrastructure they use. Why should it be different for parents with children. Again those contributing to the increasing population are contributing to the increasing environmental problems.

HappySeller2014

Taxes are a public good. So, you shouldn't be taxed for the U.S. military either I assume. You do not have any soldiers in your house. So why pay for national defense, eh?

You crack me up. Try divying up the cost of the stop sign at the end of your street by who does and does not use it, and by how much if they do. That is why taxes a public good.

gabrielshorn2013

Wow Happy, reading is fundamental. Try reading his post again.

HappySeller2014

Gabby, huh?

MD1756

Happy, your arguments are false arguments. Again nowhere do I say none of my income ta money should go to public education. Please tell my why you think I should be taxed more because I have no children? I've asked that question many times before but no one has answered why someone who chose to have no children should be taxed more than someone who has chosen to have children especially when the growing human population is having a growing adverse impact on the planet and other species. Can you honestly and thoughtfully answer the question?

Comment deleted.
jsklinelga

MD1756

You will find more allies in this debate then others. Trying to change the tax code to eliminate dependent exemptions is a tough nut to crack. But many people are against the burgeoning BoE budget for a realm of reasons. Politics and ethics is one.

gabrielshorn2013

To implement this program there will need to be either a huge tax increase, or a big reduction in other services that many Marylanders have grown accustomed to. This ain't chump change, and any pol that seriously endorses such a tax increase or service reduction will have a hard time at the polls come election.

HappySeller2014

Gabby, the waste in MD public school programs much be addressed. That sucking sound you hear is all the wasted dollars being flushed in Baltimore City, PG County, etc.

We still paying for that new FCPS central office boondoggle downtown, right? And for many years to come, right? How soon we forget. Try telling that to a parent whose local elementary school has nine portable classroom trailers.

It is about doing more, and better, with what you have. Not degrade other services or tax more. Last time I checked in inflation was nonexistant...so why a budget increase request over 7%?

gabrielshorn2013

"so why a budget increase request over 7%?" You tell me. Implementing the Kerwin proposals will cost far more than that, hence my statement. It will go nowhere.

HappySeller2014

Exactly my point Gabby. A 7% increase makes no sense. Thanks for supporting my position.

MD1756

Happy, you state "It is about doing more, and better, with what you have." I'm all for "doing more and better with what you have." If that is all it were, I wouldn't be as concerned. The Governor just announced a roughly $49 billion budget. If the Kirwan commission plan is implemented it is expected to eventually add over $4 billion/ year cost to the budget (without seeing the numbers I suspect that may be an under count since the state already has questionable assumptions for its pension obligations). I think there are bigger problems we all face than the public school system's performance. I wold rather see the state spend more money on climate change and environmental protection. I would also like to see the state make growth pay for itself, but it doesn't. If it did, why do why have PWSs that can't handle the amount of waste they accept? Why do we have PWSs that have had to have enforcement actions against them to comply with environmental regulations and permits? The Kirwan commission may not get what they want but I bet it does go somewhere. They are asking for the stars and with compromise, they'll get the moon and that will mean tax increases. Well I certainly am not the one who benefits from expanding all day pre-k (even lowering the age if the child comes from a poor family). Since parents already don't pay the same, what is wring with asking them to give up their income tax deductions to get the services they want? Again they made the choice to have children.

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