President's Message

ACCOUNTABILITY

Many parents, as well as four school board members, are asking for greater accountability from the Baltimore County school system. Not surprisingly, after the revelations that former School Superintendent Dallas Dance and current Interim Superintendent Verletta White received payments from a consultant, Education Research & Development Institute, and the school system latter awarded no bid contracts to clients of that consultant, many outside observers want an independent, legislative audit that is not being overseen by the school system. The school system is currently undertaking an audit that only covers the last six months under the previous superintendent.

Of Baltimore County’s $3.1 billion operating budget, approximately 52 % goes to schools. By contrast, Harford and Howard Counties spend approximately 40% on their educational departments. On top of that operating budget is the capital budget for brick and mortar expenditures, and the schools account for 17.6 % of the capital budget. We are currently scheduled to spend $1.3 billion over ten years for new school construction, school renovations and building additions. In addition to this current spending, BCPS is seeking bids for a multimillion dollar contract to provide new laptops. The school system plans to replace all laptops that are four years old, and, of course, along with the computers will be educational software that will add more cost.

To date, County Executive Kamenetz has been supportive of the interim superintendent and the current school administration. When asked if he would support an independent audit, his spokeswoman said “no.” Yet a new county executive may have a different outlook about the largest single spender of county tax dollars, and when one looks at certain demographic trends, those trends may support a different perspective. The school age population in Baltimore County represents 18.3% of the total population, and that percentage is smaller than both the State and National averages. Conversely, Baltimore County’s senior population represents 15.4% of the total population, and that percentage is higher than both the National and State averages. On top of these statistics, Baltimore County is growing at a rate smaller than all of its surrounding neighbors, save Baltimore City. From 2000 until 2015, Baltimore County grew in population by only 10.2 %, whereas Carroll County grew by over 11%, Harford County grew by 14.5% and Howard County grew by 26%. Given a slower growing county, with a below average percentage of school-aged children, shouldn’t we be examining how are monies are spent? We will see if that theme of accountability becomes a topic in the upcoming County Executive’s race.

Eric Rockel, President