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As Long as We Remember...

August 18, 2008

Counting Students

Steven R. Berryman

The argument continues: Let’s count the children who are from families that are not paying into Frederick County Public Schools so that we can get our arms around the problem of looming budget deficits.


One method for accomplishing this is based upon review of student records already on file in the system. This same method has recently been used to obtain a federal grant for related purposes.


So, why wouldn’t it work in this case? And to the benefit of the children themselves.


This made more headlines in The Frederick News Post last week as Frederick County Commissioner John L. “Lenny” Thompson, Jr., reintroduced his proposal to do so as part of the legislative package for the upcoming General Assembly session.


“Knowledge is power” is the mantra. The expressed purpose is to obtain facts for leverage, or at least to raise awareness on a key issue costing scarce money in school budgets to make them more unmanageable.


Some call the child counting a step toward racism. Others, like School Board President Daryl Boffman, say that such an analysis of records for the Thompson Survey works against the students.


This last argument makes no sense at face value, and reminds me of the similar argument that anyone opposing the Iraq War is also against our troops. This is a non sequitur, as one certainly does not automatically follow the other.


When the FCPS is plagued by declining federal support as tax revenue decreases, in an era of increasing costs, then we automatically have to go to battle for more dollars, or face larger class sizes, teacher layoffs, and possibly four-day school weeks. All of these measures will need to be considered, and within the next 18 months, considering current spending trends.


Medical clinics at some schools will also eventually face increased costs and more fallout mostly via the illegal immigrant phenomenon in sanctuary Maryland.


The alternative is to figure out why we are spending more on education and that increasing enrollments are not equating to more tax revenue paid into the system. The quandary demands an accounting.


Citizen interest in the counting children issue is huge and can be gauged by counting up the remarks posted to the electronic comments of They are available on-line to post and review on each column and editorial the paper produces.


Recently Katherine Heerbrandt produced a well thought out “common sense approach” column entitled “One little, two little…” that covered the issue. It received over 42 posted comments by those concerned enough to post an opinion.


A related story, also carried as an article in the FNP called “FredCo Hispanic population growth second highest in Maryland” by Justin M. Palk, garnered no less than 105 comments.


The above is awesome when you assume that only about one in 10 of those with a strong opinion are statistically likely to take the time to comment.


Juxtapose Heerbrandt column with the Palk article and you see the obvious problem. We are being overrun by immigrants, both legal and illegal. Our system has been overwhelmed and has not kept up.


Statistics by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) bear this out in their documented surveys, and – in Frederick County – we are paying a heavy toll for this demographic fact.


Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court landmark case Plyler vs. Doe (1982) is involved, applies, and is germane to the conversation. However, as long as we do not deny an education to anyone in the process of taking the Thompson survey, regardless of citizenship status, visa status, or country of origin, we can still obtain statistical counts without being in violation of Plyler.


One thing is certain: the federal government will absolutely not even entertain a request for boosted funding based on the burden of illegal families getting a free-ride education without a fact-based approach.


Who pays the price if we do not make the attempt? We do.


And what of the difficulty of conducting such a “time consuming task” of child counting as discussed in Heerbrandt’s column?


Recently the FCPS took it upon themselves to conduct a survey of school children to see whether their families were enrolled in any paid healthcare program. The method was to look at enrollment forms already in-hand.


The effort obviously had the laudable goal of verifying access to healthcare by children. Findings were that – in some areas around Hillcrest in western Frederick City – 65% of the children did not have healthcare access, and those statistics led to successfully obtaining a federal grant to cover in-school health clinics at schools.


The fact that this funding will eventually run out and need to come from the education budget is for another column. The fact that free healthcare in schools will make us an even more powerful magnet for those without it is also for another day.


That said, here is an example of statistics used to obtain cash for our students via a survey of enrollment documents already in-hand. Wouldn’t it be worth the effort to count children for cash via the Thompson plan? We should give it a shot.


Other commissioners take note please…


For the “children.”



See and Modifying Lady Liberty’s Invitation – for more.


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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