ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — The Howard County School board faced difficult decisions in balancing the fiscal year 2020 budget. Monday, they voted, among other things, to eliminate all math support teachers.
"In a school system that’s world class, it’s not going to be in the future unfortunately," said math support teacher Kelly Healey. "Students wont have us to advocate for them... Teachers won’t have us as a resource."
Healey says the more than 20 MSTs each work with multiple elementary schools and are responsible for making sure all students have an equal math education. Sometimes it's one on one time with students. Sometimes it's professional development for teachers and researching best practices of instruction.
The Howard County Public School System will get $607.2 million from the county for their 2020 budget, a 3.1% increase from last year, but it's not close to the amount of funding the superintendent asked for. He asked for an increase of $122 million and the county was able to give them $18.2 million, more than half of the county's total growth for this year.
"We're not questioning the needs on that. It's just the fiscal reality doesn't allow to support that level," said Howard County's budget director Holly Sun.
Sun said if they were to fulfill the budget increase request, there would have been serious cuts to other departments or a property tax increase, which they chose not to do.
"We want to do our best in terms of allocating funding; at the same time we want to be mindful of people's tax burden," said Sun.
To overcome the budget shortfall, the school board voted Monday to cut several positions, including all elementary math and reading support teachers.
"A teachers' role in the classroom is just a difficult job because there’s so many subject areas that they are responsible for," said math support teacher Michelle Glenn. "We have the ability to focus with them on one content area and provide that support so that they then can turn around and give that best instruction to their students."
"We have an achievement gap in this county and it runs across social economic lines ... and so I think we are taking away from our neediest students," said math support teacher Cheryl Akers.
No employees are getting laid off. They will be surplussed and get new jobs within the school system.
"I may be going back to the classroom, and I haven’t taught reading in 16 years, and there’s not going to be a reading support teacher any longer to help me make that transition," said Akers.
The school system did no have a comment about the elimination as they are still moving through the budget process. According to online budget documents, they needed more money to support enrollment growth, the board's commitments and address the school system's needs.
The final vote is Thursday at 4 p.m. The cuts also include reducing the amount of elementary paraeducators and a central office spending and hiring freeze.