The Support Our Schools (SOS) Initiative is a grassroots advocacy effort devoted to increasing awareness of and support for the needs, challenges, and untapped potential of our public school system—both for the sake of the current student population and for its opportunity to serve as a catalyst for economic development.
- Increasing the annual school budget which will allow the School Board to proactively improve our schools and provide the resources needed to return basic services that have been recently cut (see list below in sidebar)
- Raising awareness of the fact that strong public schools are essential to attracting young families to the county—thereby bolstering our economy, increasing real estate values, and revitalizing our workforce
- Restoring the school district fund balance and giving our elected School Board discretion to use funds as needed without having to appeal to the Commissioners on a case-by-case basis
We’re working to get the word out on all of the great things that are happening in our schools. Check out our blog, The Latest, to find out what’s going on and where our students and teachers are succeeding.
FILLING THE GAPS IN SCHOOL FUNDING
We are pleased to announce the creation of a new annual funding campaign for Kent County Public Schools called Random Acts of Kindness. We want every student to participate fully in all the experiences our schools have to offer and make sure that no child is ever hungry – our Principals are helping every day to make that possible. With the Random Acts of Kindness campaign we hope to help raise funds to cover these unplanned end of year expenses. We are asking the community to join us in making a contribution to our schools.
The second annual Random Acts of Kindness campaign kicked-off on February 17th, 2018 – also known as Random Acts of Kindness Day – and ran through May. Our goal wass to raise $5,000 to help offset the end-of-year expenses faced by each school in our district.
Our 2018 campaign raised $3,183.00, which was divided between the seven local public schools. Each school received a check for $636.60 at the June Board of Education meeting.
Our 2017 campaign raised $5,921.58, which was divided between the seven local public schools. Each school received a check for $845.94 at the June Board of Education meeting.
THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING OUR HARD-WORKING TEACHERS, OUR DESERVING KIDS, AND THE FUTURE OF KENT COUNTY!
The Commissioners have noted that dwindling enrollment in our public schools has reduced state funding, forcing the County to fill the budget gap. The Commissioners claim the budget they have provided is adequate for meeting the needs of our students.
But there is a huge difference between what is merely adequate and what our County needs to grow and thrive.
Instead of annual budget increases that might improve the quality of district education, the Commissioners’ strategy of bare-bones funding has led to many essential support positions being cut, leaving our teachers and staff stretched thin and unable to focus on the work they have been trained and hired to do. In spite of the many good things happening in our district through sheer effort and will of its tireless employees, our schools continue to suffer from a poor reputation (especially from those who do not have children in the system), in large part due to the limited financial support our teachers and School Board have been granted by the Commissioners.
In the 2016 Comprehensive Plan for Kent County, “a commitment to excellence in the school system” was among the key economic objectives. In the decade since, the County has failed to act on its own recommendations and has arguably moved in the opposite direction. Indeed, today’s Commissioners refuse to acknowledge the role the poor reputation of our schools plays in keeping young families from moving to Kent County—in spite of the fact that interested groups throughout the county consistently identify an investment in improving our public schools as a key opportunity for economic growth.
The Commissioners have also removed the autonomy of the Board of Education by gutting the Board’s discretionary funds and forcing the Board to request funding from the County on a case-by-case basis. This effectively gives all of the decision-making authority to the County, who are then free to make decisions based on budget rather than what’s best for district students.
Until our schools are better funded and until the people we elect to oversee the welfare of our schools are given the freedom they need to make the best decisions for the benefit of our students, our schools have no chance to emerge as the pillar of community strength and economic development they can and should be.
And until a critical mass of parents and fellow citizens stands up to demand that the Commissioners make our schools be made a priority, nothing will change.
Due to reductions in the public school budget, over the past six years, the following positions have been eliminated:
- 19 teaching positions (8 secondary, 4 elementary, and 4 non-academic [art, music, PE])
- 12 administrative and curricular support positions (including administrative assistants, a special ed coordinator, an ESOL coordinator (English for Speakers of Other Languages), and a technology coordinator)
- 14 support positions (including instructional support, tech support, and 2 finance secretaries)
Kent County Comprehensive Plan
In the most recent Comprehensive Plan, improvements in public education were listed as the third primary objective under “Economy” (see page 12 for visioning and page 75 for highest priority new initiatives).
The 2016 Comprehensive Plan is currently being rewritten. Work sessions with the planning commission are held monthly. Note that the 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update Citizen Input Survey made no mention of schools as a factor for living, working or retiring in Kent County.
Economic Development and Public Education
- The Economic Implications of Howard County’s (MD) State-Leading School System – 2016 study done by the Sage Policy Group which includes a lot of in-state comparisons
- The Economic Value of Anne Arundel County (MD) Public School System – 2014 study estimating the economic, employment and fiscal impact of the Anne Arundel County Public School System
- The Impacts of the Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools’ Proposed 2016 Budget – 2015 study strictly examining how the budget monies flow back into the local and state economy, disregarding school performance (though it is briefly noted that the public schools provide “the essential educational services that contribute to Montgomery County’s reputation as the best place to live and raise a family withing the State and as having the best-educated workforce in the state”)
- Economic Impact of the Publicly Funded K-12 Education on the Eastern Shore of Maryland – 2012 legislative handout outlining return on investment in three categories
- The Economic Impact of Changes in Public School Funding on the Eastern Shore of Maryland – interactive graphs based on studies by BEACON at Salisbury University. Click on the County by County tab and move the Percentage Funding Change slider on the left to see how changes in funding effect the economic return (again, strictly in terms of money flow back into the economy, disregarding school performance)
- A Well-Educated Workforce is Key to State Prosperity – 2013 study for the Economic Analysis and Research Network (see “major findings” bullet points)
- The Impact of Local Public Education on Economic Development, Greater Richmond Region, Virginia – 2013 study examining the impact of schools in city versus county settings
- The Social and Economic Benefits of Public Education, Pennsylvania – 2009 study published for the Education Law Center, regarding state-wide public school investment
- Cutting to the Bone: How the Economic Crisis Affects Schools – 2011 report published by the Center for Public Education that serves as a good primer on why significant cuts in public education have been made in state governments and how it has affected local government funding as well
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If you see potential solutions, speak up! The Board of Ed and County Commissioners can’t know what we’re thinking if we don’t tell them.
Board of Ed meetings are held the second Monday of the month at 5608 Boundary Avenue in Rock Hall at 6:30 p.m. The County Commissioners meet every Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room, at 400 High Street in Chestertown (unless otherwise advertised). Public comment usually happens at the end of meetings. If enough people show up for a given topic, they will often move public comment to coincide with their discussion.