Time to Weigh In - And You Can Too!
School "officials" have "learned their lesson" about transparency, or so they say in this Baltimore Sun news article. Really?
During the SAME WEEK that HCPSS supposedly learned their lesson, some on the Board of Ed tried to limit the First Amendment rights of their members. The Board of Ed’s handbook allows Board members to testify, as individuals, on proposed education-related legislation. Some on the Board want to prohibit their members from testifying if they do not agree with the position of the majority of the Board. Board member Cindy Vaillancourt posted on Facebook that she will fight ardently to protect the members’ First Amendment rights to testify as individuals on any legislation.
If limiting freedom of speech is not bad enough, how about BULLYING? A stay-at-home mother of a special needs student attempted to get a copy of a Board of Ed report. This report, paid for with taxpayer dollars and ironically titled “Highlights for Sharing” is 26 pages long and cost, with audit, $300,000.00. The Board of Ed is currently going after this mom in court, and she has been forced to pay sanctions just under $10,000.00 in attorney fees just for attempting to enforce Maryland’s Public Information Act. In comparison, a similar report done by Montgomery County was 153 pages long, cost half as much, and was broadly publicized.
Do these actions, done at the same time as the quotes in the press, sound like moving toward more transparency? It seems more like examples of hiding information, and attacking anyone who disagrees with the majority positions, even internally, or heaven forbid attempts compliance with Maryland’s Public Information Act.
We truly need to pay attention to the Board of Education elections in this County. Whether you have students in the public school system or not, over 60% of our local tax dollars support the school system, and there is no oversight of this budget, on how the money is spent. The County Executive and County Council can only approve the budget or not, and cannot make any decisions about where the money goes. There used to be an Operating Budget Review Committee sanctioned each year by the Board of Education to give citizens the opportunity to have input into the budget. Two years ago the Board disbanded the group, resulting in no public input or oversight into the school system’s budget.
Education budget proposed renovations to high schools have not increased space for desperately needed capacity. Not enough capital budgeting is being done to prepare for needed increased capacity as population of residents is set to sky-rocket.
Despite their claims of lessons learned, we have seen lack of communication, attacks on citizens who insist on getting information, and outright misinformation. It's time for change, accountability, and REAL lessons learned. There is an election for Board of Education in 2016. It’s time to start paying attention, voters of Howard County! Ask candidates what their positions are on these issues, and note the incumbents’ historical positions. They need to be independent thinkers and take responsibility for fixing these problems.
You can voice your opinions at two meetings coming soon. On December 1 at 7:30PM the Howard County Delegation is taking public testimony on legislation to be introduced in the next session at the George Howard Building, 3430 Courthouse Square. There are two bills related to education. One calls for the election of the 7 Board of Education members by Council district (5) with 2 still countywide (at-large). The People’s Voice supports this bill and thanks our Board member, Leslie Kornreich who has worked tirelessly for the past year, speaking with Delegates regarding this bill, and we thank Delegate Atterbeary for sponsoring it. The other bill, which we also support, strengthens compliance with the Public Information Act by the HCPSS. Thank you Delegate Miller for sponsoring this bill.
On December 8, at 7PM there will be a Town Hall meeting with State Delegation members regarding the School System at The Rouse Community Foundation Building, Room 400 hosted by Delegate Warren Miller, District 9A and Delegate Frank Turner, District 13. It is great to see the bi-partisan work being done to hear citizen concerns on these issues.