Citizens Voice Support For Education Funding

SNOW HILL– Requests for education funding highlighted a public hearing on the county’s proposed budget this week.

At a public hearing hosted by the Worcester County Commissioners Tuesday, speakers asked the commissioners to support the school system’s budget, as it included funding for critical aspects of education, including retaining quality teachers and giving kids access to the latest technology.

“Our budget request is entirely rooted in what we believe to be in the best interest of students,” Superintendent Lou Taylor said.

As proposed, Worcester County’s budget for the coming fiscal year projects revenues of $218,290,579 and expenditures of $229,577,983. The commissioners are expected to begin budget work sessions to close the $11 million shortfall this month.

Citizens in attendance voiced support for education spending, which accounts for more than half of the expenditures in the proposed budget.

“Please continue to support our board of education’s budget so the board of ed can continue to serve our children,” parent Rachel Geiger said.

Buckingham Elementary School parent Kimberly Jackson thanked the commissioners for supporting key projects like the addition at Stephen Decatur Middle.

“Our county really is the best county to raise families and educate our children in,” she said. “This is thanks in part to the work done not just within the walls of our schools but also by our elected county officials.”

Teacher Beth Shockley-Lynch, president of the Worcester County Teachers Association, praised the county for its unceasing support of the school system. She said that in the wake of COVID-19, teachers were working harder than ever. She noted that 66% of the county’s teachers stayed more than 20 years.

“We have the best of the best and we want to keep them,” she said.

School bus drivers also addressed the commissioners. Though the school system’s budget includes an increase for them, bus drivers said it wasn’t enough to address the rising costs they faced. Longtime school bus contractor Harry Wimbrow said he felt like a stepchild of Taylor’s organization, as bus drivers were contractors and didn’t receive the benefits school system employees did. Nevertheless, they play a vital role in getting kids to school safely.

“Without us there’s no system,” he said.

Ocean City resident John Van Fossen, who said his son was a bus driver, also spoke up on their behalf. He said that once you took their expenses into account, drivers were making less than $15 an hour. He urged the county to increase their pay.

“If not you’re going to lose bus drivers,” he said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.