Leg­isla­tive break­fast serves up fund­ing, spe­cial ser­vices

School board meets with del­e­ga­tion, com­mis­sion­ers

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

Dis­cus­sion of the eco­nomic im­pact of Charles County Public Schools, the ed­u­ca­tion of spe­cial pop­u­la­tions within the school sys­tem, proof of res­i­dency and more were on the menu Tues­day morn­ing dur­ing the school sys­tem’s an­nual leg­isla­tive break­fast with county of­fi­cials.

The event, hosted in the board room of the Jesse Starkey Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing in La Plata, was in­tended to give school board mem­bers and school sys­tem of­fi­cials

the op­por­tu­nity to dis- cuss up­com­ing leg­isla­tive is­sues with mem­bers of the Charles County del­e­ga­tion and Charles Coun- ty com­mis­sion­ers, said school board chair­woman Vir­ginia McGraw.

“The board and I think it’s very im­por­tant that we get to­gether at least once a year to dis­cuss not only leg­isla­tive is­sues, but also to make our­selves avail­able to you to an­swer any ques­tions you might have about ed­u­ca­tion, es- pe­cially ed­u­ca­tion here in Charles County,” Mc- Graw told the leg­is­la­tors present.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill said that the de­ci­sions made in An­napo­lis have a very real im­pact on stu- dents in Charles County.

The dis­cus­sion opened with a sum­mary of the eco­nomic im­pact re­port first pre­sented to the board in Novem­ber by the Busi­ness Eco­nomic and Com­mu­nity Out­reach Net­work, or BEA­CON, of Sal­is­bury Uni­ver­sity.

Sarah Guy, as­so­ciate direc­tor of BEA­CON, said that ev­ery dol­lar the school sys­tem spends on op­er­at­ing costs yields a ben­e­fit of $1.81 to the lo­cal econ­omy, and ev­ery dol­lar spent on cap­i­tal im- prove­ments yields $1.37 to the lo­cal econ­omy.

Memo Diriker, found­ing direc­tor of BEA­CON, said a strong school sys­tem also helps at­tract busi­ness.

“Peo­ple want to live in an area where the school sys­tem is well-re­spect- ed,” Diriker said. “When [com­pa­nies] are look­ing for a new lo­ca­tion, if not the first ques­tion they ask, then the sec­ond ques­tion or the third ques­tion, is al­ways, ‘How good is the lo­cal school sys­tem?’”

Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent Amy Holl­stein ex­pressed con­cern about the school sys­tem’s abil­ity to pro­vide ser­vices to the ris­ing num­bers of English for Speak­ers of Other Lan- guages (ESOL) stu­dents and spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents with sig­nif­i­cant needs, two pop­u­la­tions whose num­bers have sky- rock­eted in the past five years. Spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion in­creased by 600 stu­dents and ESOL stu­dents dou­bled since 2012, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the school sys­tem dur­ing its Novem- ber meet­ing.

“These num­bers are in­creas­ing ev­ery day. We get calls from par­ents ev- ery day with these needs who want to move to our county, be­cause they like our pro­gram,” Holl­stein said.

Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton (D-Charles) said the in­crease sur- prised him.

“This meet­ing has been en­light­en­ing,” Mid­dle­ton said. “I was not aware of the spe­cial [ed­u­ca­tion] in- crease.”

Hill said that in the past, the school sys­tem has funded re­quired ser­vices through the op­er­at­ing bud­get.

“Over the past five years, we have, let me put it plainly, robbed Peter to pay Paul, from our oper- at­ing bud­get, to pro­vide ex­tra staffing, to pro­vide sup­ports needed for some of our spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents,” Hill said.

Hill asked leg­is­la­tors to op­pose “bur­den of proof” leg­is­la­tion. Un­der cur­rent law, if a par­ent wishes to call a due process hear­ing to chal­lenge the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of ed­u­ca­tional ser­vices be­ing pro­vided to stu­dents with spe­cial needs, the par­ent must prove that the ser­vices are in­ap­pro­pri­ate. Leg­is­la­tion pro­posed to the Gen­eral Assem­bly last year would have shifted the bur­den of proof to school sys­tems.

“Just like all the other school dis­tricts in this state, we are do­ing ev­ery­thing we know how to do to as­sist and sup­port spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents. Ad­di­tional leg­is­la­tion re­gard­ing ‘bur­den of proof’ isn’t go­ing to change any of that, it’s just go­ing to be more re­stric­tive for us,” Hill said.

Board of Charles County Com­mis­sion­ers Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) ex­pressed con­cern about stu­dents from other dis­tricts com­ing to at­tend Charles schools.

“Is there any­thing we can do to help with this prob­lem of peo­ple il­le­gally putting their chil­dren into our schools? They’re over­crowd­ing our class­rooms, they’re not pay­ing a penny in taxes. We’re pay­ing for those chil­dren, and it makes it harder to do the kinds of things we’re try­ing to do,” Mur­phy said.

Hill said the school sys­tem works dili­gently to con­firm res­i­dency, but the ef­fort is time-con­sum­ing and leads to com­plaints.

“We do a very thor­ough job of vet­ting folks who need to prove their res­i­dency, and I will tell you that it gets very com­pli­cated some­times, when there are di­vorces and sep­a­ra­tions and step-par­ents here and there,” Hill said. “Hon­estly, peo­ple get very of­fended when we send school of­fi­cials out to check res­i­den­cies … We’re try­ing to go through what we be­lieve is a very fair process.”

Del. C.T. Wil­son (D-Charles) said he gets calls to his of­fice re­gard­ing ef­forts to prove res­i­dency.

“When I ex­plain to them the drain on our econ­omy when things aren’t done cor­rectly, the peo­ple who are sup­posed to be here were to­tally fine. The ones who keep go­ing on and on are the ones who aren’t sup­posed to be here,” Wil­son said.

Wil­son also asked if the school sys­tem would sup­port leg­is­la­tion to ex­empt spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion and ESOL stu­dents from PARCC test­ing. Wil­son had pro­posed such leg­is­la­tion last year — House Bill 1204 — but it died in com­mit­tee.

“Ab­so­lutely,” Holl­stein replied. “I ex­pect fam­i­lies are go­ing to start go­ing to le­gal coun­sel be­cause we’re not giv­ing them their test­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions that they are legally able to have based on their IEP (In­di­vid­u­al­ized Ed­u­ca­tion Plan) but PARCC doesn’t al­low us to give them those ac­com­moda- tions, and that is com­pletely, to me, crim­i­nal.”

Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thom- as V. “Mike” Miller, Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince Ge­orge’s) said he ex­pects the Mary­land Com­mis­sion on In­nova- tion and Ex­cel­lence in Ed­u­ca­tion to rec­om­mend an in­crease in ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing.

Also known as the Kir­wan Com­mis­sion, in rec- og­ni­tion of its chair­man, for­mer Uni­ver­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land chan­cel­lor Wil­liam Kir­wan, the com- mis­sion was formed to take a fresh look at kin- der­garten through 12th grade ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing. It is ex­pected to re­lease a pre­lim­i­nary re­port this month, with recom­men- da­tions to up­date the cur- rent fund­ing model, which is based on the Thorn­ton Com­mis­sion’s find­ings in 2002.

“The prob­lem with the Kir­wan Com­mis­sion, un- like the Thorn­ton Com- mis­sion, is they’re go­ing to come up with these rec­om­men­da­tions, but it doesn’t look like there’s go­ing to be the fund­ing that they rec­om­mend. When we did this once be­fore, we were able to pass the cig­a­rette tax, and … were able to come up with some ex­tra money, but that doesn’t ap­pear to be the case at the present time,” Miller said. “It’s go­ing to be a very hard sell.”

Miller praised the school sys­tem for the work it is do­ing to meet stu­dents’ needs.

“I think you’re do­ing ever ything about right, right now,” Miller said.

Del. C.T. Wil­son, cen­ter, speaks dur­ing a leg­isla­tive break­fast hosted by the Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion Tues­day morn­ing. At left is Pa­tri­cia Vaira, direc­tor of stu­dent ser­vices for Charles County Public Schools.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

From left, Mary­land Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Del. Edith Pat­ter­son, Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton and Del. Su­san Proc­tor at­tended a leg­isla­tive break­fast hosted by the Charles County school board.

Charles County Public Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill speaks with Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton fol­low­ing a leg­isla­tive break­fast hosted by the school board Tues­day morn­ing at the Jesse L. Starkey Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing in La Plata.

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