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As Long as We Remember...

November 4, 2008

Local Issues ARE Important, Too

Farrell Keough

What an interesting time slot to post a column. Today we engage in one of our most auspicious rights – the ability to vote for our representatives. Good luck!


Many have written about the national candidacies – I am not. If you are not sure for whom you are voting for, God help you. It is the 11th hour, and we pretty well know as much as we are going to know at this time. Again, good luck!


Now to the important stuff – our local elections. If what is going on in our government bothers you, there is no more immediate effect than those we elect at our local level. For instance, our Board of Education garners more than 50% of our local budget. You know what our local budget represents – it is our money.


The Board of Education has many controversies: building a fancy new office for themselves, generating budgets without line item expenses, and choosing the curriculum for our students. The list goes on and on. Let’s focus on one issue which may illuminate your decision.


A new math program is being fostered upon our children. TERC, now called the Pearson Math Investigations or simply Math Investigations, is being tried on our students. This program has a very poor track record in the other states where it has been instituted.


In short, it is a poor program with poor results.


When our Board of County Commissioners met with the Board of Education (BoE), the subject of TERC was brought up. The BoE gave any number of reasons for the choice of this program, even handing the commissioners an adult sample version of what they determined TERC offers. After quite a bit of questioning and conversation, the BoE finally admitted that this new math program was – in fact – the primary teaching tool and not simply a supplemental resource.


Commissioner Charles Jenkins asked why the Frederick County Public School (FCPS) system approved TERC as the primary resource even though Leslie Mansfield communicated that there wasn’t good evidence to show it worked. Donna Crook also noted that TERC failed in two states.


Ms. Mansfield pointed out that the ‘field test’ undertaken by FCPS to demonstrate TERC did not work well enough to justify the $1 million cost. When questioned about the ‘field test,’ the FCPS stated that they used it for thee months. Ms. Mansfield pointed out that Lincoln Elementary has used TERC for five years and showed that 40% of fifth grade students from that school were not proficient in math.


While answering these questions, comments were made that the BoE has received numerous complaints about TERC by one set of individuals. I have written on this topic in the past. Since that time, the number of parents and concerned citizens I have encountered regarding this program has grown substantially. Hence, this excuse by both FCPS and the BoE falls on deaf ears. If this group is not willing to listen to their constituency, something drastic much happen!


That brings us to the importance of these local elections. The only candidates for BoE which offer who change are Donna Crook, Ron Byrd, and Joe Chmelik. This team has the possibility of changing the status quo and forcing the Board of Education to finally listen to its constituency and we taxpayers.


The other two issues of importance are state constitutional Questions 1 and 2.


Question 1 deals with the issue of early voting, polling places, and absentee ballots. This is a scheme wrapped up to look like a beneficial change for voters. In truth, this will primarily benefit densely populated Democrat areas. And, there is no funding for this proposal – not one red cent. So, in a state already dominated by Democratic voters, this constitutional amendment will only benefit Democrat voting areas; and we will foot the bill without any foreknowledge of what that cost may be.


Question 2 is the long standing, highly discussed one authorizing video lottery terminals, or slot machines, to fund education. During the last Republican administration, a proposal for slots was put forth and roundly defeated by parliamentary actions within the legislature. It now rears its head once again, but under a Democratic administration.


This is not only an allowance for slots, but goes a step further by changing the state’s constitution to allow these machines. A number of people opposed to this bill cite this reason for their discontent. Of course, others will vote against this for moral, religious, or ethical reasons as a point of opposition to state-run gambling.


Those in favor (including Republicans) have noted the public desire for these machines, the loss of revenue to other states, and the voluntary nature of the use. While the actual benefit in dollars derived has numerous estimates, those who favor this bill will note that in this time of budget cuts and possible increases in taxation, this constitutional amendment may well offer a needed revenue stream.


The question of slots is not new and very few people have not established a viewpoint. Hence, there seems little reason to delve into this issue further. But, I hope you were able to read and consider these other points before making your final selections. Local politics will have a direct effect on your pocketbook, your family, and the direction this county and state will take. Good luck!


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