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How I would rework the county school budget

School Board Candidate Edison Hatter

(2/2018) The proposed Frederick County Public School budget for the 2019 fiscal year was just recently released by Superintendent Terry Alban. This year’s budget is backed by 604 million dollars of funding; 26 million dollars more than the 2018 fiscal year budget. While many aspects of the budget, such as the necessity of transportation costs, are mostly non-debatable and agreed upon by most, other budget areas, including special education funding, are hot debate topics as certain groups fight for additional funding.

By far, the largest expenditure for the school system is teacher pay and benefits. For the 2019 year, 528.2 million dollars (87.4% of the total budget) has been allocated toward teacher pay and benefits. This number is slightly higher than last year for two reasons: new teaching positions and the re-working of the teacher pay scale. 106.6 new full-time teaching positions were added due to anticipated enrollment increases, and a four year 18 million dollar plan is currently underway to readjust the teacher pay scale to make Frederick County salaries more competitive with nearby districts.

The main change I want to see, in terms of teaching positions, is the number of teachers in the classroom instructing students. Currently, certain class sizes are exceedingly large, such as math and English courses, which all students are required to take. Some of these classes have more than 40 students. It is very difficult for students in large classes, such as these, to grow a strong relationship with their teacher. To fix this, I would like to see additional teaching positions added to cut some of these class sizes in half. To find the funds to accommodate these additional positions, I think two routes need to be taken. First, of the nearly 6,000 full time positions in the system, nearly 2,000 of them are aides and other non-classroom staff. By looking at these positions on a case-by-case basis, there are certain full-time positions currently that could be half-timed to allow for more classroom teachers to be hired. Additionally, the school system receives maintenance of effort funding from the county and are state-based upon certain factors. One of the factors is student enrollment and as the enrollment of the county continues to increase, MOE funding will as well. These additional funds from the county and state should be used towards hiring additional classroom teachers.

Funding for special education students is currently severely underfunded. While special education will receive 64.2 million dollars in direct funding for the 2019 fiscal year, this is still not enough to allow their programs to be fully staffed. Special education has faculty and programs that are totally separate from other departments within the schools. As a result, they need their own budget category to ensure they have enough funding to fully operate. At this point, special education needs additional funds to hire more staff members. If elected, one of my fiscal priorities would be to secure more funding for special education so that the needs of every student can be met.

Overall, I find that the FCPS 2019 fiscal year budget is well thought out and I agree with most of the funding, but going forward, the system has to find a way to reduce the class size issue and find additional funding for the special education programs. To follow along with my campaign, check out @HatterForBOE on Twitter and Friends of Edison Hatter on Facebook.

Read other campaign articles by Edison Hatter