Monday, July 25, 2011

Budget growth dominates Weast legacy

Gazette Letter to Editor: 
The uncritical article lauding Jerry Weast on the past 12 years [“Then and Now,” June 29] when he has been Montgomery County Schools superintendent, was a little much. According to the article and other recent ones, the Montgomery County graduation rate is down; most, but not all, SAT scores are up slightly; more Montgomery County schools are not meeting state standards, when the number of schools in the state meeting the state's standards has increased. All of this when the schools' operating budget almost doubled from $1.1 billion to $2.1 billion.
The budget increase is the most egregious change. During that 12-year period, inflation increased a total of about 34 percent, which would bring that $1.1 billion budget up to $1.474 billion; adding the growth in the number of students (10.77 percent) would get that number up to about $1.6 billion. The difference between the $2.1 billion and and the $1.6 billion is about $400 million a year. Yes, the number of students taking AP classes and tests is up, and that is great, but does that cost $400 million a year? I doubt it.
I certainly don't blame Weast for all of this. Aggressive teachers' unions up against a passive County Council and a mindset that says if we throw money at the schools, then everything will be great, all came into play. And ultimately, it is the responsibility of the voters of Montgomery County, who vote in the council members and county executive without paying attention to what they are doing, to make sure that our tax dollars are spent appropriately.
Eileen Iciek, Rockville

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