A parade of parents and teachers marched to the same beat at a public hearing last week on the proposed 1988 education budget, pleading with the Howard County School Board to support funding for full-time band teachers at the county's 10 middle schools.
The request for five additional middle school band teachers, along with increased funding and expansion of the Black Student Achievement Program, dominated the Jan. 21 hearing on Superintendent Michael Hickey's proposed $133.7 million operating budget for the 1988-89 school year.
About 70 residents turned out for the four-hour hearing. Other budget priorities requested by parents were upgrading math textbooks and science lab equipment, spending more for special education, increasing the number of high school guidance counselors, reinstituting driver's education and summer school enrichment classes for all grade levels, and increasing funding for staff and curriculum development.
The School Board began sorting through Hickey's proposed budget on Tuesday. Two more budget work sessions are scheduled for Feb. 2 and 9, and the board will vote Feb. 28 on the final operating and capital improvements budgets for 1988-89.
At last week's hearing, the Howard County PTA Council recommended the School Board add between $250,000 and $500,000 to Hickey's proposed budget to pay for improvements and maintain class sizes.
Barry Enzman, a music teacher at Glenelg High School, said high attrition rates in middle school band classes were hurting high school band programs. Enzman, representing band directors at the county's eight high schools, said the music department had agreed to give up $127,000 in music equipment and supplies to pay for the five additional middle school music teachers.
Last year, the School Board approved funding for full-time band instructors in middle schools, but the funding was cut after the County Council slashed $4 million from the education budget.
Parents last week said they would rally again this year for the popular program. "Come on, Howard County, let's march to the beat," said Rita Lewis, a booster for Mount Hebron High School.
The Black Student Achievement Program should be expanded systemwide with increased funding and more commitment from school administrators, a dozen black parents told the board last week. Launched in 1986, the program operates in nine county schools, targeting students who need help and working to meet their needs.
For next fall, Hickey has proposed spending $55,000 on the achievement program, a 45 percent increase from last year's $30,000 pilot program. School spokeswoman Patti Vierkant said some of the additional money would be used to expand the program to more schools.
Several parents also urged the School Board to spend more money on special education, which they said lags behind the regular program in per pupil expenditure for textbooks and other materials. In addition, outdated math and science textbooks, published as far back as 1976, should be replaced, and newer lab equipment and computers are needed at all grade levels, parents said.