Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Educational Extortion - 2009 Edition

In August 2008, Parents Coalition members used the term "educational extortion" in reference to the Montgomery County Public Schools practice of charging parents for textbooks and school materials in violation of the Maryland State Constitution guarantee of a free public education.

What lessons did MCPS learn? In a tight budget, it's time to up the ante and find some new sources of funds.

This year's back to school surprise comes packaged with the large plastic bags, also known as the artificial turf fields that are populating athletic fields in high schools across the county. First, Richard Montgomery, then Walter Johnson and Montgomery Blair. Next stop - your neighborhood or mine.

All summer long, the Safe and Healthy Playing Fields Coalition has been talking about the maintenance costs that accompany installation of these fields. But who pays when the fields belong to the school system?

That's the $64,000 question. The Interagency Coordinating Board, the county entity responsible for establishing and collecting the fees charged as part of the community use of schools, says that the fees should cover the cost of the maintenance.

So - why is MCPS demanding payment from Richard Montgomery? According to the Richard Montgomery booster club
minutes (http://rmboosters.org/minutes/june09.pdf):

The turf maintenance issue was revisited. [name deleted] gave the club a recap of his meeting with MCPS to discuss the expectation by MCPS that the Boosters will pay for the maintenance on the turf field. Again it was mentioned that the Boosters were not informed up-front of this expectation. The club discussed whether the Boosters should be responsible for maintenance of a county field and if we refuse to fund the maintenance, whether it voids the current warranty on the field. [name deleted] was asked to look into the warranty and report back at the next meeting his findings.

Sounds like? Extortion.

For those of you who are new to this issue, here is the definition of extortion from dictionary.com:


1.an act or instance of extorting.
2.Law. the crime of obtaining money or some other thing of value by the abuse of one's office or authority.
3.oppressive or illegal exaction, as of excessive price or interest: the extortions of usurers.
4.anything extorted.

Can someone provide Dr. Weast with a dictionary - or maybe better legal counsel?

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