School buildings are run down, classrooms are crowded, and there arenot enough teachers, counselors or secretaries to staff the schools.
"It is hard to concentrate or hear the teachers because the students are talking and the teachers are teaching," said High Point Elementary third-grader Arthur Peterson. "We need two more portables and an extra one for a bathroom."
Arthur's message was echoed by about 150 people who came out to Glen Burnie High Wednesday night to voice their opinions on the proposed school budget.
Departing Superintendent Larry L. Lorton has proposed a $374.8 million budget to the school board, which is $41 million more than last year's amended budget.
Lorton told parents, students and teachers at the hearing that much has been made of the $41 million increase. However, he said, the proposed budget includes no new programs.
"There are no additional personnel, save those needed to staff the school houses and special education classes," Lorton said.
The system is expecting an additional 2,700 students next year,Lorton said. The proposed budget requested no additional staff, apart from those needed to accommodate the increase in enrollment, Lortonadded.
The budget also does not include salary increases or cost-of-living adjustments for employees. The Board of Education and the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County have reached an impasse innegotiating a new contract. The absence of salary increases is one of the sticking points.
Lorton told community members who attended the public hearing that conversations with board members and County Executive Robert R. Neall led him to believe the the final budget willnot come close to the $374.8 million request.
Still, parents, students and teachers asked that the proposal be funded, and some even asked that more money be added to the budget.
Parents representing Folger McKinsey Elementary said they were concerned that first-grade classes, which averaged about 30 students this year, are expected to be even more crowded next fall.
"With 30 students in a class, there is less opportunity to participate," said Patricia Guanteo. "At that age, the needs of children are very simple. They thrive on attention."
Donna Schmanik asked that the school board not forget Park Elementary. Built in 1944, the building has been plagued by floods and fire, Schmanik said.
"The good fairy godmother has not waved a magic wand and made time stand still," Schmanik said. "The money would bebetter spent renovating the building than to just keep patching."
Several parents supported retaining the school system's permanent substitute teachers. School board members have spoken frequently of cutting the program.
Barbara Delss said the permanent substitutes at Park Elementary have a "direct impact on the quality of education" her two children receive.
"Permanent substitutes know the kids by name," Delss said. "Please do not discard these valuable assets. Our children's education needs to be first and foremost."
The board is to adopt its budget next Wednesday at Board of Education headquarters on Riva Road near Annapolis. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.