They testified Monday during a budget hearing.
Frederick, Md. (KM) – There were plenty of calls from citizens to fully fund the Frederick County School Board’s budget request for fiscal year 2023. Those comments were presented Monday night during a budget hearing before County Executive Jan Gardner.
Last month, the Board of Education submitted a spending plan totaling $852,215,030 which includes funding from the state and federal governments. “In our requested budget for fiscal year 2023, we focused on providing direct support to our students, with significant funding to our students with the most needs, as well as competitive salaries for our dedicated Frederick County public school employees,” said Dr. Michael Markoe, Interim Superintendent of Schools.
In her comments, Frederick County Teachers Association President Missy Dirks said the funding for the School System should be higher. But despite the large amount being requested, Dirks said the county can afford it. “Frederick County has been consistently ranked either sixth or seventh in wealth, and currently has a budget surplus,”: she said. “So we should not be continually funding the local schools to the point that our funding ranked 15th instead of in line with our wealth. We can and should do better.”
Since she took over as County Executive, Jan Gardner has been increasing funding for the School System beyond maintenance of effort. But teacher salaries in Frederick County continue to lag behind those of neighboring jurisdictions. That was pointed out by Chris Haus, a 5th grade teacher at Walkersville Elementary School. “We are surrounded by very competitive counties who are ready to hire the best and brightest coming out of educational programs, and lure away our veterans as well,:” she said. “We have been falling behind our four surrounding counties in teacher salaries.” Those counties are Washington, Carroll, Montgomery and Howard.
But it wasn’t just teachers who testified. The County Executive also heard from Sharon Ebert, President of the Frederick County Association of School Support Employees. She said support employees went above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping school buildings cleaned and disinfected, providing food to students and their families, and even delivering meals to those in need.. “Inflation and CPI increases are not letting up. It has become more and more difficult for Frederick County school employees to afford basic consumer and living needs,”: she said. “Frederick County is in a position to anticipate additional financial struggles that lie ahead, and to do something about it. And it’s time to do better. FCPS employees deserve it.”
In her comments after the public hearing, County Executive Gardner said it’s been difficult trying to catch up. But she says she will prioritize employees no matter where they work,. and people will be a big part of her budget.
The County Executive is expected to present her proposed fiscal year 2023 budget on April 14th. The County Council must approve a budget by May 31st. Fiscal year 2023 begins on July 1st.
By Kevin McManus