New MCPS budget proposed

Dec. 20, 2001, midnight | By Kang-Xing Jin | 20 years, 5 months ago

Board debates the use of private funds in schools

The MCPS Board of Education (BOE) is currently considering a controversial policy which would formalize procedures for PTAs and other private groups to fund improvements in schools.

Supporters of the policy, such as Superintendent Jerry Weast, say that the policy simply sets guidelines for something that occurs all the time. "It's something [private organizations] have always been doing," he said.

In the past, PTAs have helped pay for improvements such as renovations of school buildings and construction of playgrounds.

However, some fear that the policy would increase the disparity between schools located in rich and poor areas, as wealthy parents could provide sources of funding unavailable to poorer parents.

Marilyn Shoenfeld, PTSA president of external affairs, said that she opposes the proposal. "I would prefer at this point that the BOE not put the policy in place," she said. "To institutionalize something that benefits only one side of the county is not right."

Shoenfeld said that the BOE needs to further study the issue before implementing a policy.

Weast, defending the proposed policy, said that the county devotes more funds to schools in high poverty areas, thus compensating for private donations. "We've been funding at an extra rate the schools that have been impacted," he said.

According to BOE member Patricia O'Neill (District 3), who represents the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area, the county currently uses a need-based renovation system that does not put poorer schools at a disadvantage.

She cited the fact that all elementary schools in the high-poverty Einstein cluster have gyms, while only two elementary schools in the more-affluent Walter Johnson cluster have gyms.

Nevertheless, O'Neill said that she is concerned that the policy could create inequities. She said that the policy should contain some form of "tithing" so that a portion of donations to rich schools could be redistributed to poorer schools.

It is not clear whether the policy would include a "tithing" component because the BOE is still debating aspects of it, according to Student Member of the Board Dustin Jeter. "Right now, we don't know exactly what the policy should be," he said.

The BOE is likely to vote on the policy in February. According to Jeter, opinions about the policy are divided. "Right now, [the BOE] is really split," he said.

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Kang-Xing Jin. Kang-Xing ("Mr. K") Jin is a senior in the Blair magnet program. His first name is pronounced exactly like it is spelled--"consin," as in the last two syllables of Wisconsin, where he was born. This year, he is co-managing news editor of Chips. Besides journalism, … More »

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