While we certainly have some issues with how they got there and worry about what it means for the future, we're glad the Carroll County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education were able to come to an agreement on school funding this year that largely fulfills the school system's request for county funding.
The plan that both boards OK'd calls for using stopgap money from the state to get within about $300,000 of the Board of Education's request of $185.2 million in county funds for fiscal year 2017, and then applies one-time surplus money from fiscal year 2016 to help fund the system in fiscal years 2018 and 2019. It solves short-term need but doesn't address long-term funding gaps between what the county says it can afford and the school system says it needs.
A joint committee — recommended to be made up of members from both boards, as well as union representatives, citizens and an outside facilitator — was also part of the agreement, and is tasked with developing a future spending plan for Carroll County Public Schools that is feasible for both boards.
But without some clear direction and a destination in mind, it's going to be difficult for any committee to come up with satisfying answers, and it'll be set up to fail before it starts.
On Thursday, the Board of Commissioners bickered and got heated over the semantics of what the committee should be called, showing there is still a great divide over what the end game is here.
At Wednesday's BOE meeting, Superintendent Stephen Guthrie referred to it as a "joint committee on funding facilities and educational objectives." On Thursday, Commissioner Richard Rothschild, the ex-officio member of the Board of Education, made a motion to call it the "Affordability Restructuring and Objectives Committee." Ultimately, they settled on Commissioner Stephen Wantz's suggestion as the equivocal "Combined Committee for Education." Its first task, Wantz said, will be to determine its objectives.
The tension over the name and the fact that objectives are to be determined underscores the problem: No one can agree on the goal.
Is it to have the best school system Carroll County can afford, as Rothschild suggested?
Is it to have nothing shy of the best school system in the state, as Commissioner Doug Howard opined?
If so, how do you objectively measure either of these things?
Unless specific, agreed-upon goals are provided by both the Board of Education and the commissioners, any methods determined by the committee are doomed to fail.