Story Category: Local Schools »
Teachers Call For Full Education Funding
La Plata, MD - 6/14/2012
By Andy Marquis
An organized effort by the Education Association of Charles County (EACC) paid dividends at Tuesday night’s public hearing on the FY-2013 budget. During the public hearing, all 26 speakers spoke in favor of full education funding and nobody spoke out against increasing taxes.
The lack of opposition to tax increases came as a surprise to many and may pave the road for a one-cent increase in property tax rates in line with the Constant Yield. That could play out positively, not just for the teachers, but also for the sheriff’s deputies as well. Most of the people in the chamber were teachers, holding EACC prepared signs that read, “Do the Right Thing.”
“Tonight, we ask you to fully fund the school board’s budget request to maintain successful programs that promote student achievement and bring employees to their proper salary step,” Charles County Board of Education (CCBOE) Chairman Roberta Wise said. “We ask funding to be permanent as one-time increases do not allow us to properly fund salaries and programs. This is about choices.
“We use public resources but the community gets a whole lot in return, we help students become properly educated. We are balancing our 2013 budget on 2008 levels of income. Nearly 80 percent of our budget is spent on people. Imposing tax increases to maintain quality service is not an option for our superintendent but it is for you. CCPS is the largest employer in the county. Seventy-five percent of our employees live in Charles County where they shop and pay taxes.”
“We are doing everything possible to keep the school system functioning with what we have to work with,” Bill McLaughlin, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2981, said. “We were told we were on the verge of having everything taken care of. We ask you to please support the BOE budget request so we can keep moving forward, not backwards.”
“Through my time in Charles County Public Schools (CCPS), I’ve had so many wonderful opportunities,” CCBOE Student Board Member Azeezat Adelene said. “I’ve seen myself grow in to a capable and well-grounded person. Our public education system causes this transformation. We are often told we are the future. I encourage you to support full funding of the board of education budget request.”
“I have 23 reasons to support CCBOE request,” William B. Wade Elementary School Teacher Cindy Hangarter said. “My students are worried about large class sizes and insufficient supplies. Sadly, the summer academies have been discontinued due to lack of funding. As an educator, I’ve accepted the challenge of preparing our children for the future. We do not want to cut corners or pay out of pocket, which many teachers do, to meet our educational requirements.”
“I don’t (decide to be an educator) for the money, I do it for them,” Shawn Starcher said. “But we have to have a budget to do that. I hope you can find it in the budget somehow to fully fund education for this year.”
“I do want to make a personal thank you to Commissioner (Vice President) Reuben Collins (D) because he has taken the time to come to my school,” Piccowaxen Middle School teacher Jennifer Turner said. “To get to those big items that you see in the newspaper, you should try to think about the everyday kinds of things that go on in the schools in the county. It’s the individual attention the students get from the teachers. One of our sixth graders, his last day of school was bittersweet. He was sad to leave. This is what is going to happen when you fund the education budget fully, you’re going to give us more opportunities for these experiences. Teaching is a passion.”
“We have a number of really wonderful programs,” North Point High School Teacher Linda McLaughlin said. “Science, technology and industry programs give students real world experience while in high school. We can only continue to do these things with your support. We also have really great sports teams because of your continued support. Our skills team is going to national competition, because of your continued support. Our students give back to the community. We want to give life-long learners. We have 100% participation in the Relay for Life program. Being a teacher isn’t something we do for the money, we do it because we believe in the students, future and Charles County.”
“This school year, my students have made accomplishments in the classroom and extracurricular activities. None of the mock trial coaches are paid, yet teachers continue to give their best because helping students continue to grow is a labor of love. Teachers deserve professional pay of professional work. Only 26% of adults in Charles County hold a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, a teacher is required to hold a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree yet would be in the bottom 14% of income in the county.”
“This school year, my students have made accomplishments in the classroom and extracurricular activities, North Point High School teacher Ashley Nadasky said. “None of the mock trial coaches are paid, yet teachers continue to give their best because helping students continue to grow is a labor of love. Teachers deserve professional pay of professional work. Only 26% of adults in Charles County hold a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, a teacher is required to hold a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree yet would be in the bottom 14% of income in the county.”
“During my tenure, I’ve literally taught thousands of children,” Robert D. Stethem Educational Center teacher Bill Fisher said. “Many of them have become very successful in their career, including your very own Dr. Bridgett who was in my very first class. I am also the treasurer of MESA so I know your situation. We’ve had to make tough choices to keep services. We had to raise our dues. I hope you can see the parallel of our situation. You could raise revenues so these fantastic teachers can continue to do wonderful things.”
“What I want to say in terms of large class sizes,” Wualanda Thenstead said. “I love what I do; I don’t have to do it. But when I come in to my class every day and my middle school kids greet me to do mathematics and they try, that brings so much joy to me. My daughter graduated North Point H.S. with a certificate in cosmetology. She has a skill and can pay for college. The cost of living increases and my pay doesn’t. If it continues, I may not be able to stay in Charles County. We don’t want to lose our educators who have come here from all around the nation. We have the number one schools in the country. Please fund BOE budget so we can remain number one.”
“I just think it’s important to hear the union’s opinion on the things we’re talking about,” Charles County Fraternal Order of Police President John Elliott said. “We signed a contract where we thought we would get a pay increase and we think there’s been a breach of contract. The last four years, we have not received a step increase in our pay. There’s been a pay increase for county employees for every facet except for us. In 2012, 45 police officers have already been killed in the line of duty. Our starting salary is lower than an Animal Patrol Officer. We have 292 sworn officers. If you’ve seen recent crime stats, they’re down but calls handled by Charles County Sheriff’s Officers have increased. There are 792 calls per officer on average. We put ourselves in the line of fire every day for people we don’t know. We do this job because we love it. We’ve been told we have the support of the Commissioners. We don’t feel like we’re asking for too much, we’re asking for what’s deserved. All five of you sat here and said we deserved it, now it’s time to show it.”
“Biomedical sciences in a high school sounds like a daunting task,” Robert Bushman, a biomedical sciences teacher at La Plata High School, said. “I teach my students biomedical sciences which is a wonderful program we’ve been able to offer our students. We’ve grown to Westlake and Lackey. Students would not have had this opportunity if we had not been given the support to offer these kinds of programs. Without our students, where would we be?”
Mattawoman Middle School teacher Karen Harmeyer said she relocated to Maryland because of a friend. She said, “This past year has been one of highs and lows, challenging but rewarding. It’s been rewarding because of the students which is why I do my job.”
“Earlier this year, our state legislators acted to avert a doomsday budget,” EACC President Elizabeth Brown said. “They raised taxes because they knew services could not continue to be unfunded. The citizens of the state must have no problem with that because there’s been little public objection to it. We want to move forward to get even better”
Everyone who spoke was incredibly respectful and articulate,” Commissioner Ken Robinson (D: 1st) said on Wednesday morning. “They showed that passion can be expressed without being rude.”
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