From Ryan Burbey, President – Harford County Education Association:
HCEA did not ask the Board of Education to cut 250 positions. I don’t know how Mr. Craig arrived at that number but this allegation has no merit. What we have been saying is, without additional funding, the Board of Education must make the cuts necessary to return to sustainability, as well as, return to honoring contractual salary steps. Without additional funding, the current staffing levels and programing are not sustainable.
Last year, to fund a step and 1%, the Board of Education cut about 60 positions. It would cost about the same this year were the Board of Education to fund our salaries solely through position cuts. These cuts were essentially faceless cuts, which were realized through retirements and attrition. Future cuts will not be so painless. For several years, the Board of Education has been using its fund reserves to fund continuing operations. At this point, those reserves are almost completely exhausted. This loss leaves a substantial deficit in funding. Without additional funding, this deficit will result in additional cuts.
HCEA has not nor will I advocate for massive staffing cuts. I believe that HCPS must increase teaching staff and programing if it is to properly meet the needs of its students. However, if County Executive Craig does not increase funding, further cuts including cuts to staffing will be necessary. While Mr. Craig would like to paint this as the mean ole teachers union making irrational demands, forcing cuts to our schools; that simply is not the case. Without additional funding Harford County Public Schools will not be able to provide a competitive, 21st century education to our children.
This year, over 100 positions were cut. Teachers were laid off with only a few days remaining in the school year; leaving them little time to find new employment. These cuts were made without funding teacher salary steps. Fortunately, due to vacancies via retirements and resignations, which have arisen since the cuts, most of the teachers who were laid off have been called back. Unfortunately, if the funding is not increased these cuts will happen again next year. Since, HCPS is hiring very few if any new teachers, those teachers who were subject to cuts this year could be subject to cuts next year also. This is not an equitable, ethical or sustainable means of running a school system.
If HCPS is not able to provide a secure, stable working environment for teachers, which includes yearly salary increments (steps), our teachers will continue to leave. If new teachers must endure lay-offs and call-backs on a recurring basis, they will also leave. Similarly, HCPS will not be able to attract new teacher candidates in the future if it does not correct its history of not honoring its contract, not properly compensating its teachers and not providing the security which teachers are afforded in other school systems throughout the state.