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Baltimore County School Board told proposed budget falls short

John Lee
Baltimore County School Superintendent Darryl Williams. Credit: John Lee

At a public hearing Tuesday night, speakers told Baltimore County School Superintendent Darryl Williams and the school board that their proposed $2.4 billion budget doesn’t go far enough to meet a long list of needs in the county schools.

That list includes better pay for teachers and class assistants, smaller class sizes and more school-based psychologists.

Erica Mah, who teaches at Lansdowne Elementary School, applauded the budget, saying it “focuses on people in the school house.”

But she said educators need to be paid more “especially as we compete with other counties nearby with similar needs and demands.”

Sabrina Thaler, a 10th grader at Eastern Technical High School in Essex, said the school system needs to establish gender-neutral bathrooms.

“When trans people are forced to use bathrooms misaligned with their identity, they’re susceptible to verbal harassment and physical assault,” Thaler said.

The proposed budget would increase the county’s spending on public education by nearly 17%. During the public hearing, Bash Pharoan told the board that the increased spending for schools would come at a price.

“That means there are less funds for our roads and social programs,” Pharoan said.

The school board is expected to approve the budget February 22. It then goes to County Executive Johnny Olszewski and the county council for final approval.

Williams wants to add more than 380 positions and pay educators more. When he presented his budget to the school board on January 11, he said his request was very significant, “but we must address our critical needs.”

More than half of those new positions would be in special education.

Williams said the budget deals with the increasing numbers of students who are in special education, as well as more students who need to learn English, and those who qualify for free meals or are homeless.

Since 2010, Williams said, the number of English learners has increased by more than 200%. He said 54% of the county’s 111,000 students qualify for free and reduced price meals.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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