We’ve heard it all a million times … The more we spend on education the better our society (town, city, county, state, nation) will be. It sounds great! It’s for the children! It also happens to be false.
Does anyone believe that New York City’s public schools are among the nation’s best? How about Washington, DC or Chicago? They all spend substantially more per pupil than Wicomico County.
Last Sunday we were treated to an op-ed by Wicomico Board of Education (WCBOE) president Ron Willey. Willey argues that it is the board’s responsibility to “advocate” for more money:
We would also be less than responsible if we did not speak out for the needs of all of our students when it comes to facilities that will provide 21st century education opportunities.
It is true that modern buildings support the instructional programs and enable teachers to provide creative and more effective instruction for students. Whether elected or appointed, the school board must be the voice for these issues when budget decisions are made.
No Mr. Willey! Your responsibility is to direct Wicomico County’s public schools. That MAY mean building new schools when needed. It also means making sure that the employees of the WCBOE maintain the existing stock of facilities. It also means directing the Superintendent and his underlings to put the maximum number of available dollars into the CLASSROOM, not the bureaucracy.
Currently the WCBOE is “advocating” to close an existing school (East Salisbury Elementary) to house bureaucrats while wailing to all who will listen that tax dollars must be expended to build a new West Salisbury Elementary.
We must admit that there are no simple solutions to the problems facing Wicomico County’s schools (or any other school district in the nation). It is unjust to lay society’s problems at the feet of teachers. It is equally unjust to demand hard working tax payers shell out an ever increasing amount to solve a problem that isn’t being solved.
Our schools should be adequately funded. Our schools should be well managed … from the Board on down. That means maintaining our existing schools and only building new ones when enrollment growth demands it! That means providing us, the public, with real evidence that the WCBOE is cutting wasteful spending and bureaucracy. I’m no Pollyanna, but I do believe that taxpayers would be more receptive to higher taxes IF they honestly believed that they were receiving more value for their tax dollars. The largest share of those tax dollars go to the public schools.
Wicomico County faces a severe financial crisis in the coming years. The state will have little choice but to reduce funding for a variety of services, including education. Given that Wicomico County currently funds only about one quarter the cost of its schools, funding for primary and secondary education will probably have to decrease as well. If Mr. Willey was the honest broker he claims, the WCBOE would be working WITH the county government to plan for these problems instead of attempting to gin up public support for more spending. We assume that Mr. Willey can read the election returns. Wicomico voters want less taxes, not more.
“Advocating” for more money will not solve the problems of Wicomico’s education system; LEADERSHIP, from the WCBOE, the Superintendent, the County Executive, and the County Council will. “Advocacy” (for more money) does not improve the quality of schools. Advocacy for change can.