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Not Again!

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Published on: Wednesday, December 02, 2009

By Brian J. Karem

  A few items caught our attention this week, and seem worthy of a few "hmmmms…."     The first came with the announcement that the county public schools AP test scores are on the rise. 

The rising test scores are a feather in the cap of the county's public school system and a testament to the students, parents, teachers and administrators.    

What caught my attention though was not how well we did, but how well others did not do.

Take for example the AP test scores for African American students. Maryland leads all states with more than 24 percent of African American students scoring a "3" or more on these tests.

However, in Montgomery County more than 48 percent of these students make the grade.

Doing the math tells you how far behind the rest of the state lags, how much Montgomery County drives these scores up, and makes one ask the state - how does this translate into state funds for our school system?

     The fact is that it usually does not. There's a pervasive attitude, driven by years of abuse and neglect in Annapolis, that if you're from Montgomery County you're okay when the rest of the state needs money, but otherwise, no one wants to hear from you.

I've heard this preached by politicians large and small, from county office holders to federal officials.

     School Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast referred to the increase in scores as "Deliberate Excellence," and I wish it would transfer to our state legislative delegation when they head to Annapolis at the beginning of the year.

     While it may be a truism that the rest of the state likes to rob our pockets while providing us with nothing, it neither makes it right nor palatable for us.

     I am, of course, in favor of helping out those less fortunate. So, if we have to give a little more to the poorer areas of the state, I cannot disagree with the sentiment. But since politics is the art of "half a loaf," we should be able to retain a little more money for our students in Montgomery County. More state funding could supplement the arts, music, sports as well as more teachers in the classroom.

     A little "Deliberate Excellence" in demanding such funds by our legislative delegation is not only desirous but necessary this January.

     Moving on to another education issue, the potential fine facing our school system because of problems in following the maintenance of effort (MOE) guidelines smacks of a convoluted mess that was precipitated by problems not at the school board but in the county council - and could cost us millions.

     Which leads me to the final issue confronting us this week.

     The sublime county council in its infinite wisdom has decided to toss out protocol and Roger Berliner in favor of Nancy Floreen as the new council president.

     A little revolution now and then is not necessarily a bad thing, and I've never been one to sit on my laurels or protocol. However, in this case, the revolution inside the county council portends potential disaster for the coming year.

     A very vocal majority of Mike Knapp, George Leventhal, Valerie Ervin, Nancy Navarro and Floreen have put to rest 50 years of tradition in order to insure their opinions and desires - as well as their common political agenda - get the lions share of attention in the county council chamber.

     I not only shake my head at this nonsense but urge the council to take a look across the street at the chambers of the Rockville City Council to see where the county is heading.

For at least two years we've poked fun at the silly politics being played in Rockville, how incessant bickering, politicking and arguing have all combined to stop any real progress in government.

     The Montgomery County Council has headed down that slippery slope, slid into the mud and muck of mean-spirited politics with this move and quite frankly has showed us all they are not only no better than those they look down their noses at in Rockville but a lot worse.

     They saw it coming, ignored the warning signs and plunged head long over the cliff.

When they begin crying next year like toddlers in a schoolyard fight we will be tempted to say "I told you so."

     Maybe I’ll just smile. Maybe everything will turn out all right. But what the council did was wrong.

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