Panel says no on funds; CA council is urged not to spend $100,000 of budget on schools; Report on tonight's agenda; Committee suggests creating citizens' advisory group instead


A Columbia Council committee has recommended against approving $100,000 in the Columbia Association budget to help solve academic and image problems at some of the town's older schools.

"We do not believe spending CA funds directly on the schools is the right approach to solving the concerns that have been raised," a committee report reads. The report was written by Vincent L. Marando, committee chairman and council representative from Wilde Lake, and Pam Mack, the association's vice president for community relations.

Instead, the committee, formed in part in response to recent articles in The Sun on issues of open enrollment and bus transfers, has recommended the creation of a citizens' advisory panel on schools. That group would try to determine how the Columbia Association should best spend its resources on education and what type of advocacy role the Columbia Council should play with respect to the Board of Education, Howard County Executive James N. Robey and the County Council.

Some of the $100,000 in the association's draft budget could be used for the new advisory committee, the report says.

The Columbia Council, the elected body that governs the Columbia Association, plans to take up the report at its meeting tonight.

"I obviously don't agree with the recommendation," said Cecilia Januszkiewicz, the council representative from Long Reach who proposed including $500,000 for schools in the draft budget.

That draft, for the fiscal year that begins May 1, is scheduled to be released Dec. 16. The council usually approves the final budget in February.

The committee's report contained a summary of its findings, based on interviews with parents, teachers, school administrators and members of the real estate community. Among them:

Most parents of school-age children shop for real estate based on the reputation of the schools.

The increase in students who speak English as a second language "creates obvious barriers to learning," which, in turn, lower standardized test scores.

Test scores are commonly used to judge a school's performance.

Academic performance has declined at some older schools because those schools draw from a more "transient" population, caused in part by an abundance of rental housing in Columbia.

Older schools lose their best teachers to newer schools.

A state program that financially rewards schools with high test scores is perceived as "demoralizing" to teachers in schools with lower socioeconomic populations and places emphasis on the "wrong method to measure achievement."

"The key question for the council is how can it contribute most effectively to enhancing educational opportunities in fulfilling its mission to the Columbia community," the report states.

Also on the council's agenda tonight is a proposal by the Rouse Co. to make its proposed development in North Laurel -- on what is known as the Key property -- part of Kings Contrivance village.

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