Education

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The Problems

Teacher Pay

A good public education system is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy and the key to good public education is good teachers. One way we show teachers how much we value them is through what we are willing to pay them, and on this front, we have fallen way short.

Since FY 2010, we have funded step increases for our teachers only 3 times and have refused to do so 5 times. When you compound the effect of these missed steps (a step missed in 2010 is pay you don’t get every year after that as well) we are the second worst jurisdiction in the state when it comes to not giving raises to our teachers.

Treating our teachers in this way incentivizes many of them to leave for jobs in nearby jurisdictions that will pay them more fairly and will honor their yearly salary increases. We are becoming the training ground for the surrounding areas! Teacher turnover was up to 10% by the end of 2015.

If we want a top-rated public education system then we must start investing more in our teachers.

Class Sizes & Overcrowding

Our county keeps building new homes without making the necessary investments in additional teachers and schools that this growth requires.

My daughter had 29 students in her first-grade class last year. That is crazy! In our secondary schools, some of the class sizes are as high as 40 – 50 students. Also crazy!

The most recent budget request made by the Board of Education included funding for 120 new teachers needed to help account for growing enrollment. The County Executive cut all of them.

Our buildings cannot handle the number of students that arrive each morning, but we aren’t making the necessary investments in school renovations and new-school construction.

This strain on our class sizes and our buildings is causing the quality of our education system to decrease.

An Over-Focus on College

College isn’t for everyone, but k-12 education should be.

The vast majority of students don’t earn college degrees. Yet getting students admitted to college seems to be the only thing that our school system really prepares them to do. We do not have a meaningful focus on vocational programs that will help our students get good jobs right out of high school.

The Education Strategy Group just did a comprehensive review of Montgomery County’s system and have said that:

“The focal point of K-12 schools must correspondingly shift from ‘how do we prepare students for four-year college?’ to ‘how do we prepare students to earn a postsecondary credential that gives them entry into the middle class and beyond?'”

If we really care about all of our students we must also focus on the ones that won’t go to college.

The Solutions

Fair and Consistent Pay

I will never vote favorably for a budget that doesn’t include a step increase for teachers. Period.

Talking about pay is nothing new. All politicians say they will pay public workers more. What sets me apart on this issue, and what is different, is that I will address the root causes of the problem.

  • I will never vote for a tax cut while teachers are underpaid
  • I will promote campaign finance reform so that politicians will listen to the people, who do want to support our teachers, over the donor class (who only want more money in their pockets).
  • I will engage the public in a hard, honest conversation about revenue. If we want a first-class education system then we have to be willing to pay for it. If we aren’t willing to talk about increasing revenue then we need to stop pretending like we really want to provide a top-tier public education.

Investments that Match Growth

We need to make the proper investments in our education system so that we can keep up with the growth in our student body without lowering the quality of education that we provide.

Again, talking about making proper investments is not new. All politicians say they invest in public education. What sets me apart on this issue, and what is different, is that I will address the root causes of the problem.

  • I will never vote for a tax cut while classes are overcrowded
  • I will promote campaign finance reform so that politicians will listen to the people, who do want to invest in education, over the donor class (who only want more money in their pockets).
  • I will raise impact fees on developers to help pay for the new school construction that a growing student body requires.
  • I will engage the public in a hard, honest conversation about revenue. If we want a first-class education system then we have to be willing to pay for it. If we aren’t willing to talk about increasing revenue then we need to stop pretending like we really want to provide a top-tier public education.

Crofton High School

I fully support building the 13th High School. Arundel was overcrowded when I attended and the distance students travel to South River is a problem. Funds for this school should remain a priority.

Vocational Programs

College isn’t for everyone but K-12 should be.

We need to broaden our focus from a near singular focus on getting students into a four-year college and also prioritize teaching skills that students can use to enter the middle-class workforce upon graduating from high school.

We can start by allowing our trade-unions to be fairly represented career fairs in our high schools. Manufacturing no longer drives our economy, services do. The importance of trade unions to providing good-paying middle-class jobs will only increase in the future.

We should also put more of a focus on learning essential coding skills and foreign languages starting in elementary school.

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