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Advertise on the Tentacle

January 7, 2013

More Money, Broken Promises

Cindy A. Rose

Factoid. Do you know what that is? If you’re a Frederick County Public Schools parent, and you sign up for the Find Out First e-mails, I’ll bet you're tired of seeing them?


A factoid is defined as a brief or trivial item of news or information: an assumption or speculation that is reported and repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact.


Are you wondering why our school system keeps sending these little gems to you?


Are you familiar with their Promise of a Public Education campaign and its Rally Around the Promise? I don’t know about you, but in these polarized times, this campaign is making me feel more manipulated than included.


From the schools website on this event: “… In Frederick County, the promise is to empower our young people no matter what their background or circumstances. We want our students to excel as strong citizens of a strong Frederick County. We want them to be prepared to succeed in college and in careers… It is time for us to rally around the promise. It's time to stand up for our children and our schools.”


“It’s time?” Haven’t we been doing this all along?


Is it just me or does that language insult you as well as make you suspicious? To me, it’s very manipulative and reeks of social engineering.


Public education was not intended to cure our social ills by modifying behavior. Education was supposed to empower our children through knowledge. With this new found knowledge, our children would seek jobs and careers of their own choosing for their own purposes. Schools were not intended to be "work camps."


Increasingly our public education seems to be about social justice and teaching based on what future employers want, but I digress from my point.


I’ve understood our children are being manipulated, but this new campaign to “include” the parents and community seems to be a new form of puppeteering from behind.


In one of the recent daily “factoid” releases, we are informed that “1 in 4 FCPS (Frederick County Public Schools) students lives in poverty: 23% are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.” Interesting fact; but I’m not sure of the relevance other than to elicit an emotional response.


When I first heard about this campaign in an e-mail entitled Promise of a Public Education, my warning bells went off. That’s probably because I received it just in time for budget talks, and also likely because I simply don’t trust the school information arm.


I’ve listened to too many people, superintendents included, who mislead the public in order to obtain a desired result. That desired result is: Convince the public we need more money.


I don’t believe for one minute this campaign is anything other than Frederick County Public Schools evoking emotion to incite hysterical, hostile or aggressive calls to our county commissioners to increase Maintenance of Effort.


Attempts at shaming and/or embarrassing the commissioners into forking over more money will begin at commissioner and Board of Education meetings.


Maintenance of Effort (MOE), for those that don’t know, is a dedicated amount of money the county (we taxpayers) must fork over to our school system every year to guarantee the school system spends the same amount per student as the year before. The current rate is over $12,000 per student. This does not include millions of dollars our commissioners give yearly outside of this amount.


Our county commissioners give millions “outside” of Maintenance of Effort because Maryland law requires that once you pay an amount through MOE, it cannot be lowered without filing for a waiver.


In order to be responsible with our tax dollars, our current commissioners have not raised the amount of Maintenance of Effort but continue to give more than is required. Last year the commissioners gave more than $9 million above MOE.


However, what we are going to hear – from Superintendent Dr. Theresa Alban, unions and other supporters – is that it is not enough. More times than not the calls are for compensation packages and not monies for the classroom students. Talks of wanting salary increases while being willing to cut actual classroom expenses go unquestioned by many in the public.


This is the same school system that we hear – as nauseum – has ranked #1, has the lowest drop-out rates, gets the best test scores, had the National Teacher of The Year and is above and beyond any other county in Maryland.


How is that? How do we manage to have the best with so little? Could it be we do have enough money in the form of Maintenance of Effort? However the school system just wants more? And more!!!!!


Like every other bloated governing body, our school system misspends a lot of what it gets. They see goodies they’d like to get, but refuse to appropriate its money wisely in order to get or fund it. They sign up for things they don't need in the form of programs that don't work.


Not to mention that our union contracts will get a full re-negotiation this year. With the new makeup of the Board of Education, who’s betting they’ll want to give more while getting nothing in return?


Who’s betting the Other Post Employment Benefits (pensions, insurance, etc.) and the transfer to us for their payment, goes unaddressed? Who wants to bet not one cut in administration is made to help handle this newest financial burden? Who wants to bet, if anything is cut, it comes from our children and not the adults?


Frederick County Public Schools should be auditing the entire system for inefficiencies. Waste is happening. If I am shown evidence there are no cases of overspending and mismanagement of funds, I’ll be the first in line asking for a pay increase for employees.


Instead of making the difficult choices, Frederick County Public Schools would rather use its time, energy, resources (tax dollars) and whip the public into a frenzy so we will go to the Board of County Commissioners and demand more money in the form of funding above Maintenance of Effort.


In true Saul Alinsky fashion of never letting a crisis go to waste or in the alternative, inventing a crisis where there is none, Frederick County Public Schools seems to be manufacturing one of a promise not kept to our students.


Since they can’t get everyone in a tizzy over closing Sabillasville or ending band for elementary school, they’ve insulted us by manufacturing the broken “promise of an education.”


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