I bring this up because I find the venue interesting.
It so happens I was quoted in yesterday’s Coastal Dispatch out of Ocean City in an article by Shawn J. Soper regarding the prospect of an elected school board in Wicomico County. And while the quote wasn’t perfect (or perhaps I didn’t read my statement accurately) Soper conveyed the point I was trying to make, so kudos to him.
One has to ask, though, why an Ocean City paper is picking up something the Daily Times chose to ignore as they covered the budget hearing at Parkside instead. I’ll grant that the school board fight is somewhat old news but so are budget troubles. It’s just that the sob story at Parkside was almost guaranteed to attract a big crowd.
Yet one story actually goes well with the other. If we had an elected school board there would be more accountability for the budgetary process, and perhaps fiscally conservative board members would make the budget work under the constraints of the numbers given to them by the County Executive without a lot of wailing or gnashing of teeth. As it is, we have the emotional outpouring of parents and students who see the first fallback option given by the board is cutting sports and other extracurricular activities. Tell me that’s not a scare tactic.
It seems to me that over $11,000 per pupil is a bit much when parochial schools can charge less. (Yes, I understand that public schools have to take the special education students and troublemakers, but their numbers shouldn’t add that much to the budget.) After all, what is their goal – would a public school student get a better education if only we spent $15,000 per pupil? What about $25,000 – is that enough for their needs?
The sad truth is that no one knows exactly what a quality education costs because it has little to do with money. If money were the sole determiner, homeschooled children would be blithering idiots; instead, they generally turn out to be among the best and brightest. On the other hand, inner-city districts would be cranking out the next generation of doers like the late Steve Jobs because they spent a ton of money, but we know that’s not the case.
And the tactic of scheduling the budget meeting at a time when it’s well known County Council meets is very questionable on the part of the Board of Education. Surely the Parkside auditorium was open any other night this week, but they chose Tuesday and someone needs to ask the rationale behind that. It seems like this isn’t the way to promote a cooperative effort.
One thing is certain, though – this problem isn’t going away soon. As for the elected school board, all we need is to have the General Assembly do their job without obfuscating the question and we’ll be well on our way. Hear that, Delegate Norm ‘Five Dollar’ Conway?