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In Howard County, parents urge leaders to keep programs as students perform concert

Posted at 9:25 PM, Apr 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-24 23:12:09-04

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Reading the lines of a sheet of music is a whole lot different from reading the lines of a budget.

But on Wednesday night, the two came together in Ellicott City; dozens of parents and students joined together at the George Howard Building in support of greater school funding as music students played string instruments.

The A-majors and F-sharps of Pachelbel's Canon rang out just before a scheduled budget hearing, hosted by the County Council, asking community stakeholders to comment as the budget process reaches a crescendo.

"We decided to form what we know best, which is music," Ginger Segala, a Howard County parent, told WMAR.

Segala has been in the school system for 20 years and convened the talented young orchestra on Wednesday. Segla told WMAR that third-grade strings in the county are a gold standard in the state.

"Music is the most important subject to us," Segala continued, "And we want to make sure that the County Council understands how many people support the music programs."

Among the cuts in a March proposal from the Board of Education were gifted and talented and third grade strings, except in schools where 40 percent or more students receive free or reduced meals.

READ MORE: Howard Co. school board OKs renovated budget proposal, with some program cuts

Last week, Calvin Ball, the Howard County Executive, presented his budget and said it would 'restore' those programs.

"Importantly, this funding creates pathways to restore key educational programs that are valued by our community," Ball said at a budget presentation last Tuesday.

Ball's proposal marks just over $766 million in county funding for the school system; the school board asked for just shy of $770 million. There is still time for the actual number to change as the budget process plays out in the next few weeks.

After the snap concert on Wednesday night, the crowd shuffled into the council chambers to testify.

"I've played violin all my life, my wife's a teacher in the school system," Anthony DeBella, a parent, told WMAR, "And it's always been like the family business to us."

DeBella's son was in third grade strings, and says it supports higher achievement in other areas.

"And really, this isn't about any one program. This is about making sure the school system is fully funded to their needs," DeBella added.

The board adopts a budget toward the end of May, and the full county's budget will get the OK from the County Council on or before June 1.