By Nicholas Shelly
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
The Baltimore County School Board approved the interim superintendent’s proposed $1.6 billion budget for the coming school year late Tuesday after four hours of discussion that resulted in few changes to the original plan.
Key elements of the budget include $2 an hour raises for classroom assistants, a $34,000 increase to increase lunch aid salaries by $2 an hour and a few other positions, as well as $1.4 million for additional social workers and $1 million for free breakfast at 22 schools with large populations of low-income students.
“BCPS is in good financial standing,” said Verletta White, the interim superintendent who first proposed the budget in early January. “The proposed budget has been developed with stakeholders for students. We care for every student.”
Katherine Myers, a Dundalk elementary teacher, said, “The new budget doesn’t solve all of the issues but it’s a better option then the option that the Board of Education had initially put out.”
However, Abby Beytin, president of the Teacher’s Association of Baltimore County, said more teachers are needed, a problem directly related to budget issues.
“Imagine teachers are working their day job of teaching,” Beytin said, “after that they are working on nights and weekends planning their lessons, grading their papers, talking to parents and on and on. Then on top of all of that they are working an outside job or jobs to make ends meet. It’s no wonder we do not have enough teachers to fill the positions across the nation and here in Baltimore County.”
Many teachers and parents attended the meeting wearing red apparel to show support for the “Red for ED” campaign. This campaign was launched to bring attention to overcrowded classrooms, outdated materials, and underpaid teachers.
“This is important because it is in the best interest of the students in our school system,” said Jeannette Young, a Residency Investigator for the BCPS and president of the Educational Support Professionals of Baltimore County. “The detriment of not funding the staff is a detriment to the school system as a whole.”
Some parents were harshly critical of the budget.
Dayana Bergman, a parent, said she was outraged by the budget and criticized the board, saying they “slaughtered it.” She pointed to the budget’s neglect of Title 1 schools.
“This new budget is an embarrassment,” Bergman said. “It’s not going to help our schools; it’s not equitable; and, it’s hurting our most vulnerable population in our school district. They made a really unrealistic expectation of what education is supposed to look like.”
However, Myers said that the board can properly fund schools by reassessing the budget, and that they didn’t need to raise taxes.
“They need to look at the budget as a whole and determine where things can be taken away to give back to education,” Myers said.
Bergman said that the new budget is harming the minorities and underprivileged children throughout Baltimore County’s communities.
“It [the budget] was very discriminatory,” Bergman said. “They are looking at numbers and cutting and not knowing that they are cutting somebody’s career and somebody’s everyday life. You don’t do that, it’s just wrong.”
With the board’s approval, the budget will be forwarded to the county executive on or before March 1, and the county council for consideration and approval.