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Catherine Shoup: No justification for education fund

In Carroll County there are approximately 2,200 private school students and 1,300 home-schooled students, for a total of 3,500 students. The Carroll County Public School system has nearly 27,000 students enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12.

In 2013, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners put $400,000 of our public tax money aside for what it promised would be a "one-time only fund" to reimburse parents of home- and private-schooled children for the cost of books, lab equipment, travel expenses, sports activities, field trips, computer software, uniforms and other items. At the same time, the commissioners cut funding to our local public schools for the fifth year in a row - for the upcoming budget year, 18 Carroll County student specialists and counselors will lose their jobs, for a net savings of less than $700,000.

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Lo and behold, the one-time only fund of another $400,000 is back in this year's budget, even as the county shuts down its crisis counseling services in the high schools. The full amount was not spent last year, but they are requesting the same as last year - somewhat ironic considering the bitter criticism made by commissioners Robin Frazier and Richard Rothschild that the school had not used its budget and should therefore cut back on its request.

Frazier justified the creation of this reimbursement fund for home-schooled and private-schooled students as a way for those students to more readily participate in activities that are offered at the public schools, such as art classes, sports and band. She does not seem to understand that parents of public school students pay for school supplies (including art supplies), athletic fees, uniforms, cleats, other sports equipment, instruments for band and outfits for dance. Most parents also participate in fundraisers for multiple organizations and volunteer as well at bake sales and bingos. Parents of public school students are no strangers to field trip forms, each with its inevitable check request.

Rothschild stated his unequivocal support for the reimbursement fund in the Times: "These children will get a more robust and richer educational experience if we can help the parents pay for some of the things that, otherwise, the children might not have full access to. It's appropriate for non-public school children to gain some of the benefits of the taxes that their parents pay."

Apparently, Rothschild believes if a taxpayer pays taxes and chooses not to utilize a community service, the taxpayer has justification to apply for reimbursement. I am waiting for the creation of a fund for the services that I don't utilize so that I may apply for my reimbursement. I have never called or used the sheriff's office; I have never called or used the Department of Social Services; I have never called or used the fire department; I have never had to use any of the Carroll County homeless shelters; I have had no need to use our local court system, nor have I ever had to be placed in the Carroll County Detention Center.

And yet my tax money is utilized for all these services and organizations. Because as Commissioner Rothschild well knows, we do not live in a fee-for-service tax system. We all agree that public education, public safety and public roads are worth our investment as a community, and the public overwhelmingly opposes cuts to education budgets that have resulted in a brain drain of the best and brightest teachers and administrators beginning to leave our county, while those who remain are teaching middle school honors math to classes of 38 or more students.

This "one-time only" fund for private school and home-schooled students has now turned into an annual grant by all the taxpayers of Carroll County. It is apparent that at least some of our Board of Commissioners are more concerned about the curricular and extracurricular activities of a select few students than they are about the educational needs of the majority, our public school students and the biggest employer in the county, Carroll County Public Schools.

Education is the issue in this June's primary election - so please use your vote. A board of commissioners that acts in the best interest of all of our children, rather than a few, would be a welcome change for our dedicated educators and students.

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