Below is an email I sent to County Executive Alan McCarthy and members of his administration on 3/28/19, prior to the announcement of his proposed budget for FY 2020.
For too long, Cecil County has been willing to accept “OK,” as an assessment for many things in our community.
It’s time we acknowledge that “OK is not enough,” especially when it comes to funding our schools.
And more important than merely acknowledging that we are not willing to “settle,” it’s time our county budget reflects the priorities of our citizens.
County officials profess a desire to increase the number of residents who attain at least a bachelor’s degree yet the county’s track record for investing in education says otherwise. In the state of Maryland, 39% of residents have earned at least a bachelor’s degree; Cecil County, in comparison, has one of the lowest rates in the state at just 23%, ranking 17th out of 24.
That fact shouldn’t be shocking when the county also ranks 17th for local funding of education.
How far does local funding from Cecil County lag behind much of the state?
In FY 2019, the county spent $5,616 per student on education, $1,891 per student less than the state rate per student–with an enrollment of 14,800 students, that’s almost $28 million less…in one year.
Every year the county funds the schools at or near the maintenance of effort, the minimum permitted by state law, all the while treating the requirement to fund the school system as an unreasonable demand.
During the period immediately following the recession, such under-funding might have been understandable but, more than a decade later, this is no longer acceptable.
I find the current state of the county’s finances particularly infuriating because I vocally supported the tax increases that were introduced with the FY 2018 budget, foolishly expecting that some of that additional revenue would be spent on our schools. Instead, the county raised $14 million in additional taxes in one year but only increased its appropriation to education in that year by $1.1 million and in the current year by $800,000.
James Frick said, “Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”
What will this budget show Cecil County’s priorities to be? (4/14/19 note: unfortunately, once again, County Executive Alan McCarthy’s proposed budget does not adequately fund education. “The County’s regular allocation to the Board of Education for managing the County’s public schools is increasing by ***$2,442,145*** to a total of $84,905,673. This allocation is 3.6% or $3,000,000 above the State’s Maintenance of Effort calculation.” )
(And just for good measure, I added) P.S. Reminder: Perryville High School is still waiting for a field house–over 40 years after the school opened.