Potential Wicomico Budget Cuts Worry Parents

SALISBURY — A group of concerned parents told the Wicomico County Council Tuesday that budget cuts in schools have them worried about the future of education in the county.

“We have to find a way to support public education in the best way possible,” said Lauralyn Geiser.

According to Geiser, there has been a trend over the last few years to reduce and scrimp on the public education budget, and it’s beginning to show in the quality of education being offered.

“Parents are concerned about how these budget cuts have affected their children,” she said.

Specifically, Geiser pointed to how some schools have changed their hours slightly to maximize bus routes. While the amount of time may seem small, it can be disruptive to learning, said Geiser.

“Fifteen minutes in a 6-year-old’s life…is tremendous,” she said.

Geiser related to the council that some friends have moved to neighboring counties, like Worcester, solely to take advantage of that county’s public school system.

Another parent, Kim Hudson, agreed.

“People are leaving our community because of our schools,” she said.

Last month, when Worcester County Superintendent Dr. Jon Andes retired, noted Hudson, he received a standing ovation for all of the strides he had taken to improve education. Judging by the Maryland State Assessment, Worcester has consistently ranked amongst the top counties in the state in math and reading scores. Hudson pleaded with the council to take steps to make Wicomico more competitive.

“Our schools are falling apart … We cannot continue to sit around blaming and finger pointing anymore,” she said.

Lisa Mertensotto, a parent and president of the Salisbury Middle School Parent Teacher Association, wants a commitment from elected officials that the school budget won’t continue to be shorn.

“I want the best education for my daughter,” said Mertensotto.
Hudson agreed that additional cuts this year from last would “not be acceptable.”

According to the Wicomico Board of Education, $16 million in revenue has been lost in the last two years.

Geiser voiced her fear that if nothing is done classroom sizes may balloon while the school week could conceivably shrink to four days.

The council listened to the testimony and acknowledged that the budget for education is a tough topic.

“We need to really have serious dialogue,” said Council member Sherrie Sample-Hughes.