Reducing teachers a painful necessity

The Baltimore Sun

There has been considerable discussion lately about my plan to reduce teaching positions across the county as one of the ways to cope with what we believe will be a significant shortfall in the amount of money allocated to us by the county as compared to our board's budget request. We have requested an additional $77.5 million from the county this year and have been told to expect an increase of about $20 million to be utilized for school system needs.

I want to correct several misconceptions. First, we anticipate no layoffs of certified teachers. We hired approximately 700 teachers for this school year, and we expect a similar number of vacancies next year from retirements and resignations. The reduction would come from that pool of vacancies. However, as in prior years, nontenured teachers with one-year contracts are subject to reappointment. Fewer teachers with such contracts, which end June 30, may be brought back than in previous years.

It is also important to note that the average target class sizes remain unchanged. The reductions mean that, unfortunately, class sizes will increase. While most classes will remain at or under those target averages, there will be some where the number of students exceeds the target average. That, again, is the case every year.

Finally, staffing allocations were given to schools in March -- the same time they are done each year -- so that principals could begin the process and follow the timeline spelled out in the negotiated agreement with the teachers association.

We continue to examine other cuts that may have to be made across our system. They, like those we have already made, will be painful. They will be necessary, though, if the level of funding forthcoming from the county falls as short of our board's budget request as we anticipate.

Kevin M. Maxwell Anne Arundel County superintendent of schools

Cut something besides teachers

I am a parent of a student at Riviera Beach Elementary School and I recently attended the Board of Education meeting to express my concerns with Dr. Maxwell's plan to reduce teachers at our school.

Under his current plan to reduce teacher positions in the county, our small school will lose 4 of 14 teachers, leaving only 10 teachers to teach 6 grades. Our school is losing 29 percent of its teachers, more than any other elementary school in the country.

Dr. Maxwell insisted this must be done since they are expecting a shortfall in the approval FY 2009 budget from the County Council and County Executive. It is time to stop playing the blame game and step up to the plate to fix this debacle. Dr. Maxwell and the county school board are blaming the county executive and the County Council and vice versa.

Dr. Maxwell and the School Board need to cut spending from other areas, not education, and Mr. Leopold and the County Council need to give the school the money they need to save our teachers and stop wasteful spending such as artificial turf on county fields. This isn't the NFL!

Our children's education is at risk, you need to stop playing politics and fix the problem. SAVE OUR TEACHERS!!

Heather Zerbe Pasadena (Riviera Beach)

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