As a graduate of Broadneck High School and the University of Maryland, I am a big proponent of public education. Having fantastic schools in our district such as Severna Park and Broadneck High Schools certainly increases our property values and makes all of our neighborhoods more pleasant places to live. But our school rankings tell a different story.  Niche.com lists Severna Park and Broadneck high schools as the 48th and 52nd best high schools in the State! US News and World Reports lists Severna Park as 8th best in the State and does not rank Broadneck at all in its 2016 report, even though it used to be 11th in the 2013 rankings. For College Readiness, Severna Park Ranks 26th and Broadneck 41st in the State.

Overall, Anne Arundel County Public School District does not fare particularly well compared to our peer districts in Maryland, which is startling to me considering my own personal positive experience as a student and a parent of students in the system.

School District School District Ranking Best Teachers Safest Athletics Diversity Place to Teach Size Avg. Teacher Salary Student-Teacher Ratio Expenses per Student
Howard County 1 1 3 1 3 1 6 75,909 13:1 17,329
Montgomery County 2 2 6 4 1 2 1 77,159 15:1 16,800
Frederick County 3 3 11 3 14 6 7 67,451 15:1 13,892
Carroll County 4 4 4 7 24 4 10 64,244 14:1 13,792
Harford County 5 8 9 2 15 8 8 58,435 14:1 14,533
Worcester County 6 5 5 10 10 3 18 63,137 11:1 16,831
Calvert County 7 6 19 9 18 9 13 76,250 16:1 14,390
Queen Anne’s County 8 13 2 18 21 11 17 62,301 15:1 13,084
Anne Arundel County 9 10 17 17 6 16 5 66,681 15:1 14,915
St. Mary’s County 10 12 16 21 17 17 12 67,352 17:1 12,899
Baltimore County 11 14 15 6 2 13 3 64,082 15:1 14,612
Prince George’s County 21 22 10 14 8 20 2 61,467 15:1 16,218
Source: Niche.com

 

There were a few shocking numbers on this chart, but the most disappointing was “Place to Teach”. As a parent, I really want teachers to want to teach here and have AACPS be an attractive employer.  Better teachers mean better education.  Howard and Montgomery Counties are not flukes.  Having salaries lower than Howard, Montgomery, Calvert, Frederick and St. Mary’s Counties is something that is frequently noted by teachers, as is the lack of regular raises.  The scary statistic is “Safest School”. Of course everyone wants our children to be learning and our teachers teaching in a safe environment.

Anne Arundel County can and must do more to improve its schools in order to remain competitive with our peers.  The question is how?  Currently, the school budget represents 52% of the County Budget:


Source: Anne Arundel County’s FY 17 Approved Budget

As the school system already consumes 51% of the County Budget, I believe asking every other county service (police, firefighters, roads, snow plowing, detention facilities, public health, etc.) to take a reduction to increase support to the school system is a bit premature when it appears the school system may not be operating efficiently.

The State of Maryland requires all school systems to present their budgets the same so that you can make comparison between peers.   For instance, from publicly available documents, it appears that Anne Arundel County spends, proportionally, more funds on Administration than Howard and Montgomery Counties. It also spends proportionally less on instructional salaries.

County Administration
Howard County 1.60%
Montgomery County 1.90%
Anne Arundel County 3.06%
Prince George’s County 3.16%

 

County Instructional Salaries
Howard County 41.91%
Montgomery County 40.48%
Anne Arundel County 37.62%
Prince George’s County 33.87%

 

Were we to realign the budget to come in line with our peers, over $13 million would need to be shifted out of “Administration” and over $30 million shifted INTO instructional wages. Other areas where we appear to proportionately outspend our peers are: textbooks and instructional materials, student transportation and operation of plant. Besides instructional wages, Anne Arundel County also proportionately under spends our peers in special education and community services.

I was shocked at how much of the budget in the “central office” type- or administrative units was not really justified by historical expenditures.  From FY 2013 to the current FY 2018 Budget Request, the school system has grown $159,287,836, or 17.74%.  During that same time period, Administration has grown 35%, and Instructional Salaries have only grown 15%. These growth patterns do not seem to indicate a school system that puts students and teachers first. To see how far we are out of alignment with Montgomery County, which is a much larger school system, or Howard County, which is a slightly smaller system, was eye-opening and bears additional scrutiny before we embark on a mission to increase school spending.

I very much believe that what you do is far more important than what you say.  Anne Arundel County Public Schools says students and teachers are important, but when it comes to resources, what they do is allocate funding increases elsewhere- namely increasing bureaucracy.  Additionally, it is very telling that the organizational chart completely omits teachers and students, but details the labyrinthine administration that has grown by over a third in 5 years. We cannot keep growing our education budget and not holding our politicians and school officials to account.  Funds should be prioritized to spending that directly benefits students, teachers and classrooms.  By electing someone like me, you will be electing someone who will be able to ask these hard questions to work together with the School Board and the County Executive to improve and strengthen Anne Arundel County Schools.