Once upon a time, when education was adequately funded

Editors Note: The following is a slightly edited for print transcript of the public testimony delivered by MC to the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners at the May 7, 2014 Public Hearing on the FY2015 Operating Budget at Oakdale High School. You can watch any part or all of the hearing here.


Long ago, in a land called Frederick County, Maryland, there was a little boy. He was a typical little boy…was one of three kids…had a mom and dad who were both college graduates. He had grown up being read to every day, with sit-down meals at the table with conversation. He had all the advantages, including having been to an academic preschool. He should have come to school “ready to learn/achieve.”

But he struggled.

In kindergarten although he was very quick, and all of his skills — verbal, comprehension, math, etc. — were very strong, he struggled. His parents were troubled. His teachers were perplexed. And he grew more frustrated and angry by the day. His common response when asked about the alphabet was “I don’t do the alphabet”.

Because he excelled on every other front, he was passed to first grade. But his parents knew there was a bigger issue. So the boy was put into a special class with a very special teacher. The teacher was able to spend time watching and studying him. She was able to carefully choose remediation strategies to help him cope. By the end of first grade she had accurately identified his learning challenges. He was tested at the beginning of second grade and put into a specialized program for children who have issues processing the written word.

He continued in that program, and was given the “tools” – strategies to help him get his school work done and keep up with the class. But he continued to struggle with his learning challenges throughout his entire educational life. It would take him two to three times as long as the other students to finish some work, and three to four times as long to finish reading assignments. He spent much of his free time completing his school work, time when his friends would be out playing. To say he was frustrated and angry would be an understatement.

But he persevered.


Fast forward. Today that little boy is a senior in college and will soon be graduating.

So, why am I telling you this story? Because that little boy is where he is today because when he started school our education budgets were still being funded appropriately. He was in a first grade class of eighteen students. And many studies have shown that when we keep class sizes small, students have a better chance of success. And small class sizes enable our teachers to really get to know their students. This allows them to quickly identify issues that may hamper a child’s ability to learn and put the appropriate remediation in place.

Because of the education budgets at that time were being funded adequately, his class was small, his teacher had the time to get to know him and observe his academic efforts. She was able to get him properly tested and the correct interventions and remedial programs were put into place. She and his subsequent teachers, staff, guidance counsellors and others were able to spend the extra time with him to help him find ways over or around his hurdles.

These are the kinds of things that are missing with strict “Maintenance of Effort” funding.

These kind of results will be harder to achieve, and often won’t be. How many kids like this young man will be lost? Because of his sense of frustration, this child was already being labelled a “trouble maker” in first grade. This young man is like many of our students who deal with challenges and the feeling of being overwhelmed on a daily basis. He probably would have dropped out before graduating if he hadn’t received the right help.

This young man would have become another statistic. But because at that time we funded our public schools at a level that allowed small class sizes, and that allowed a variety of remedial programs and interventions, and that provided extra staff for guidance and assistance…he is a shining example of success.

That is what proper funding of our school budget can mean to ALL of our students.

This young man…is my son. He still struggles daily with his processing issues. But he has been given the right tools to use. And he was fortunate to have teachers, administrators and staff who had the time and energy to care and help.

Because of all these things, in a week he will graduate with Honors, and plans to go on to law school in the fall.

And now you know the rest of the story.