Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A way to get even more money for Howard County public school needs

See item in today's Sun

Every little bit helps and we can't lose by providing the best possible public school system here, in the state, and nationally. I can tell you another way than those mentioned in today's Sun article to provide a few thousand dollars more for our public schools here in Howard County.
There is a law, passed by the state legislature in 1943 and later incorporated for some reason into the Howard County Code, that entitles parochial school children in the county to ride along with public school children on the public school bus routes. A permissive section of that law allows the county to create new bus routes for such children. For the past few years, under that permissive section, the county has been treating five particular religious schools as if they were public schools for busing purposes. These five schools are, and remain to the best of my knowledge, St. Augustine's in Elkridge, St. Louis in Clarksville, Resurrection in Ellicott City, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ilchester, and Bethel Christian in Savage. At last report, designated non-overlapping transportation areas were created for each of these five schools and children who resided within these areas were transported to their school using county taxpayer funds.
Every year, whoever is superintendent of our public school system puts X number of dollars in the proposed operating budget for nonpublic school transportation. Superintendents come and go, but the amount of the request seems to go upward all the time. Routinely, our elected school boards, County Executives and Councils accept that particular budget item. On those occasions when the necessity for the item on transportation for the five religious schools has been challenged, benefitting parents seem to rise up en masse and scare either the school board or the Council from implementing any change in the request.
And it has to be said that there are other religious and non-religious private schools in the county who could decide that they're tired of only the currently favored five benefitting from county's busing program and insisting on "equal protection of the laws" for themselves and their children. We might have a doubling of the current cost.
It doesn't have to be this way, people. What we are doing here is subsidizing religion with county taxpayer funds and depriving our public schools (which the only ones for which we are responsible and controlled by us) of money that could otherwise be directed toward them. As indicated, those religious schools belong to and serve private religious interests. They are protected by the First Amendment's religion clauses from public control. They can teach whatever they choose and select the pupils and teachers of their choice for the reasons of their choice.
Too bad that the First Amendment doesn't seem to work both ways these days. While it works to protect these religious schools from public control, it doesn't seem to work to prevent the public from having to provide for one of their basic financial needs: transportation.
That 1943 law could be repealed or it could, at least, be strictly implemented so that the only transportation provided for parochial school children would be along the public school bus routes. How about asking the candidates for school board, County Executive, County Council, and the state legislature how they feel about this law and what they would do about it?


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Anonymous David W. Keelan said...

As long as every property owner pays taxes to support the school system (whether they have kids in the system or not) then I see no problem with busing private school kids. It is likely that most of these kids get a ride to school from Mom and Dad and the ones that ride the bus are the ones who are getting a subsidy to enable them to afford private school.

I can see both sides of this arguement and Ken you have often said I contridict myself on this subject. I just think I have an open mind and can appreciate your arguements - although I don't always agree.

When I stop paying taxes to support public schools then I will support your position on this. After all where in the constitution of the US does it say we have to support public education.

Now before you go off the handle Ken - that was tongue in cheek.

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