This week marks the return to school and the start of the 2013 – 2014 school year. I had the pleasure of joining the students, parents, faculty, and administration of Dundalk High School on opening day. Along with the new Sollers Point Technical School, we have produced an amazing educational learning environment for our students – something that we should be working to replicate for every single child in our community and across Baltimore County.
Education is an issue that remains near and dear to me as a former educator in the Baltimore County School system for nearly a decade. My experience in the classroom has enabled me to be a positive advocate for the students of our district, and that work continues today.
Recently, the state of Maryland announced that Baltimore County is slated to receive nearly $12 million of a new $25 million fund that has been specifically created to target the needs of air conditioning around the state. The governor agreed to the creation of this fund due to the direct urging of the Baltimore County House Delegation, of which I am the chairman. With matching funds being provided by the county, five additional schools will be provided air conditioning, and the percentage of schools in the system without air will drop to approximately 26%. While one school without air conditioning is too many, I am proud of how my efforts directly and immediately are helping to eliminate the air conditioning backlog in Baltimore County – moving us closer to having all of our schools and all of our students in better and healthier learning environments.
In addition to being a champion for air conditioning in all of our schools, I continue to advocate for additional investments in early childhood learning.
Specifically, I believe that we need to do more to make pre-school more universally available to our students. Research has demonstrated that quality pre-kindergarten programs improve the likelihood of a child succeeding in school and later in life. These students are more likely to graduate from high school, less like to be held back a grade, and less likely to require special education services. Likewise, they are more likely to earn more as adults, less likely to have run-ins with the law, and less likely to require government services and welfare – all things that save valuable taxpayer money.
Simply put, a small investment in the early years of a child can help avoid major costs by the government in later years. North Carolina, for example, spent an additional $170 million for children that were held back and needed to repeat kindergarten and grades one through three during the 2001-2002 school year alone.
That is why I plan to present legislation that will require our school systems to find ways to expand pre-k services to more of our children. Because of budgeting and physical facility constraints, we may not be able to have every eligible child in a pre-k classroom next year, but that is no reason not to require meaningful progress toward this goal every year until such a goal is achieved.
While not a panacea for all of the challenges of providing a quality education to our children, finding ways to provide universal air conditioning and access to pre-kindergarten are two important things that we can and should be doing towards that end.