County fears policy will cause academic inequities
The Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) is currently considering a controversial policy that would allow private community-based groups such as PTSAs to finance capital improvements in public schools.
Supporters of the policy feel it will improve the county's educational facilities at no cost to MCPS, while opponents fear it will increase the inequities between schools in rich and poor areas.
Currently, no official guidelines exist for privately funded capital improvements. The proposed policy would permit private funding of architectural enhancements or additional facilities like gyms but exclude "core facilities" such as classrooms and media centers, according to BOE member Sharon Cox.
In response to criticism of an earlier draft, the revised proposal now states that the capital improvements must not foster or exacerbate inequities, must not incur additional operating costs on the county and must serve community needs, said to Cox.
In the past, the BOE reviewed projects on a case-by-case basis.
Opinions on the policy have generally been split along economic and geographic lines, with the more affluent communities supporting the policy and the poorer communities crying foul.
"Our concern is that [the bill] will further the divide in the county. [Some schools] can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars without even blinking an eye, and we can't," said Marilyn Shoenfeld, Blair PTSA co-President.
For the renovation of Chevy Chase Elementary School, the community raised approximately $200,000 to retain the school's historic 1930s architectural style, according to a DecemberWashington Post article.
Kennedy High School's PTSA is an example of the "have-nots" on the spectrum of PTSA prosperity. For a student population of 1,400 students, its PTSA raises $2,500 to $3,000 each year. In contrast, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School's (B-CC) PTSA raises a total of $20,000 from a student population of 1,360, according to B-CC PTSA co-President Cathie Goltz.
Some members of the Blair community, such as Pete Lafen, Eastern Middle School PTSA president, also favor the proposed policy because they believe local business support will be enough to keep lower-income school districts afloat. Lafen feels donations in economically dismal times are beneficial across the board.
However, critics warn that increased reliance on private funds could lead legislators to overlook chronic budget shortfalls.
A vote on the policy scheduled for Mar 12 was deferred to an unspecified date. According to Cox, BOE action will mostly likely not take place any earlier than this fall.
Vivian Wang. Vivian Wang, a senior at Blair, is a first year Managing Sports editor for Silver Chips. She is in the Blair Math, Science, and Computer Science Magnet Program, yet has equal interests in the humanities and arts. In fact, she belonged to the Eastern Humanities … More »